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THE 



ANATOMY OF SUICIDE: 



FORBES WINSLOW, 

MEMBER OF THE BOTAL COLLEGE OF BUBOBONB, LONIX>N ; 
AUTHOR OF '' PHYSIC AND PHT8ICIAN8/' 



* Bat is there yet no other way, besides 
These painfttl passages ; how we may come 
To death, and mix with oar connatoral dust ? 
****** 
Nor love thy life, nor hate : but what thou liv*st 
Live well; how long or short pkrmit to Hbaykn." 

Milton. 




LONDON: 
HENRY RENSHAW, 356, STRAND. 

SOLD BY CARFRAE & SON, EDINBURGH; 
AND FANNIN & CO., DUBLIN. 

1840. 



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CS^^^' 






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TO 



JAMES JOHNSON, ESQ., M.D. 

PHYSICIAN EXTRAORDINARY TO THE LATE KING, 
ETC. ETC. 



Wt^i^ moxk u; bebtratelr, 



AS A TESTIMONY OF RESPECT FOR HIS HIGH PROFESSIONAL ATTAINMENTS, 



AND AS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE 



ADVANTAGES DERIVED FROM A PERUSAL OF THE MANY ABLE WORKS 



WITH WHICH HE HAS ENRICHED 



THE MEDICAL LITERATURE OF HIS COUNTRY. 



Zondon, — .Way, 1840. 



2 G 7 4 ^'9'^'^"^ ^y Google 



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PREFACE. 



Tffls treatise had its origin in the following circumstance : — 
A few months ago, the author had the honour of reading 
before the Westminster Medical Society^ a paper on *^ Suicide 
Med ically cortsidergd," which giving rise to an animated 
discussion, and evolving an expression of the opinions of 
several eminent professional men, excited at the time much 
interest 

It was the author's object in his paper to establish a fiu:t, 
he believes, of primary importance, — that the disposition to ] 
commit self-destruction is, to a great extent, amenable to j 
those principles which regulate our treatment of ordinary 
disease ; and that, to a degree more than is generally sup- 
posed, it originates in derangement of the brain and abdo- / 
minal viscem. 

Notwithstanding, however, these points were not considered 
with the minuteness commensurate with their value, the dis- 
cussion which followed the author*s communication afforded 
him great satisfaction. It tended to strengthen in his mind 
an opinion previously formed, that the members of the medical 
profession were inferior to no other class in a knowledge of 



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VI PREFACE. 

those higher branches of^hUosophy that give^^^^^ and 

elevation .tp.h»niMi_character. 

To explain more fully the author's views on the subject of 
Suicide is the object of the present work, which is, strange to 
say, the first in England that has been exclusively devoted 
to this important and interesting branch of inquiry. 

Hitherto suicide has been the theme of the novel and the 
drama, and has never, with the exception of an incidental 
notice in works on medical jurisprudence, been considered in 
this country in reference to its pathological and physiological 
character. 

That an intimate acquaintance with this branch of know- 
ledge is highly important to the medical philosopher, few will 
deny ; that it is a subject of general and painful interest, 
all must admit The apparent coolness with which suicide 
is often committed has induced many to suppose that the 
unfortunate perpetrator was at the time in possession of a 
sound mind ; and it is this idea which has induced the pro- 
fession to conceive the subject as one foreign to their pursuits, 
and belonging rather to the province of the moral philo- 
sopher. How far the author has succeeded in disproving 
this opinion, it is for others to decide. 

He takes this opportunity of acknowledging the assistance 
he has received from the writings of Pinel, Esquirol, Falret, 
Fodere, Arnold, Crichton, Willis, Black, Haslam, Burrows, 
Conolly, Pritchard, Mayo, Ellis, Paris, Smith, Beck, Taylor, 
and Bay. To the pages of Dr. Johnson's Medico-chirurgical 
Beview, the Medical Gazette, the Lancet, and British and 
Foreign Medical Beview, he is also lai^ely indebted. 

In conclusion, the author, conscious of its imperfections, 
claims for his work no other praise than that it is the first 



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PREFACE. Vll 

attempt in this country to reflect light on a branch of medical 
and moral philosophy, the importance of which is only equalled 
by the difficulties impeding its investigation. He will feel him- 
self amply repaid, should his introductory essay (for such only 
can it be considered) stimulate others more competent than 
himself to prosecute the inquiry which he has commenced. 
Their success will afford him much satisfaction and pleasure ; 
for in the attainment of their endeavours will his hopes be 
fulfilled, and his ambition gratified. 



London, — May, 1840. 



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CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. — ^ANCIENT LAWS AND OPINIONS 

ON THE SUBJECT OF SUICIDB. 
Examples of antiquity no defence of suicide — Causes of ancient suicides— 
The suicides of Asdrubal, Nicocles, Isocrates, Demosthenes. Hannibal,_ 
Mithridates, the i nhabitants of the city of Xanthus , Cato. Charondas» 
Lycurgus, Codrus, Themistocles, Emperor Otho, Brutus and Cassius, 
Mark Antony and Cleopatra * Petronius, Lucan, Lucius Vetus, Sardana* 
palus, M. Curtius, Empedm^es, Theoxena, — Noble resistance of Jose- 
phus — Scripture suicides :/^Samsonl Sau l, Ahitophel, Judas Isauriot« 
Eleazar, Razis— Doctrines of the stoics, Seneca, Epictietus, Zeno— 
Opinions of Cicero, Pliny, on suicide — Ancient laws on suicide, 

p. 1—29 

CHAPTER II. 

WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE. 

Opinions of Hume — Effect of his writings — Case of suicide caused by — ^The 
doctrines of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Montaigne examined — Origin 
of Dr. Donne's celebrated work — Madame de Stael's recantation — 
Robert of Normandy, Gibbon, Sir X«> More, and Robeck's opinions 
considered -------------..p. 30 — 35 

CHAPTER III. 

SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN. — IT IS NOT AN 
ACT OF COURAGE. 

rhe sin of suic ide — The notions of Paleyon the subject — Voltaire's opinion — 
i s suicide'^self-murde r ? — Is it forbidden in Scriptur e ? — Shakspeare' s " 
views on the subject— The alliance between suicide and murder— *Has a 



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X CONTENTS. 

man a right to sacrifice his own life? — Everything held upon trust — 
Suicide a sin against ourselves and neighbour — It is not an act of cour- 
age—Opinion of Q. Curtius on the subject — Buonaparte's denunciation 
— ^ of suicide — Dryden's description of the suicide in another world, 

p. 36—44 

CHAPTER IV. 

ON THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES IN INDUCING 
THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 

Moral causes of disease — Neglect of psychological medicine — Mental philo- 
sophy a branch of medical study — Moral causes of suicide — ^Tables of 
Falret,&c. — Influence of remorse — Simon Brown, Charles IX. of France — 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew — ^Terrible death of Cardinal Beaufort, from 

remorse — The Chevalier de S . Influence of disappointed love — 

Suicide from love — Two singular cases — Effects of jealousy — Othello- 
Suicide from this passion — The French opera dancer — Suicide from 
wounded vanity — False pride — The remarkable case of Villeneuve, as 
related by Buonaparte — Buonaparte's attempt at suicide — Ambition — 
Despair, cases of suicide from — The Abb^ de Ranc6 — Suicide from blind 
impulse — Cases— Mathews, the comedian — Opinion of Esquirol on the 
subject — Ennui, birth of— Common cause of suicide in France — Effect 
of speculating in stocks — Defective education — Diffusion of knowledge — 
** Socialism" a cause of self-destruction — Suicide common in Germany — 
Werter — Goethe's attempt at suicide— Influence of his writings on Hack- 
man — Suicide from reading Tom Paine's << Age of Reason'' — Suicide to 
avoid punishment — Most remarkable illustrations — Political excitement — 
Nervous irritation — Love of notoriety — Hereditary disposition — Is death 
painful? fully considered, with cases — Influence of irreligion, p. 45 — 107 

CHAPTER V. 
IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 

Persons who act from impulse liable to be influenced — Principle of imitation, 
a natural instinct— Cases related by Cabanis and Tissot— The suicidal 
barbers — Epidemic suicide at the Hot^l des Invalids — Sydenham's 
epidemic — The ladies of Miletus — Dr. Parrish's case — Are insanity and 
suicide contagious ? -- p. 108 — 114 

CHAPTER VI. ^ / 

SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. *^ 

Singular motives for committing suicide — A man who delighted in torturing 
himself— A dangerous experiment — Pleasures of carnage— Disposition 



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CONTENTS. XI 

to leap from precipices — Lord Byron's allusion to the influence of fasci- 
nation — Miss Moyes and the Monument — A man who could not trust 
himself with a razor — Esquirol's Opinion of such cases — Danger of as- 
cending elevated places ---------- p. 115— 120 



CHAPTER VII. 

OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY WHICH, IF 
ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE. 

Connexion between genius and insanity — Authors of fiction often feel what 
they write — Metastasio in tears — The enthusiasm of Pope, Alfieri, Dry- 
den — Effects of the first reading of Telemachus and Tasso on Madame 
Roland's mind — Rafiaelle and his celebrated picture of the Transfiguration 
— ^The convulsions of Malbranche — Beattie's Essay on Truth — Influence 
of intense study on Boerrhave's mind-^The demon of Spinello and. 
JLuther — Bourdaloue and his violin — Byron's sensitiveness — Men do not 
always practise what they preach — Cases of Smollett, La Fontaine, Sir < 
Thomas More, Zimmerman— Tasso's spectre — Johnson's superstition — 
Concluding remarks ---- p. 121 — 129 



CHAPTER VIII. 

PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

Influence of climate — The foggy climate of England does not increase the 
number of suicides — Average number of suicides in each month, firom 
1817 to 1826— Influence of seasons^Suicides at Rouen— The English 
not a suicidal people— Philip Mordaunt's singular reasons for self-de- 
struction — Causes of French suicides — Influence of physical pain — Un- 
natural vices — Suicide the effect of intoxication — Influence of hepatic dis- 
ease on the mind — Melancholy and hypochondriasis, Burton's accounts 
of— CogBfir's case of suicide — Particulars of his extreme depression of 
spirits — Byron and Burns's melancholy from stomach and liver derange- 
ment — Influence of bodily disease on the mind — Importance of paying 
attention to it — A case of insanity firom gastric irritation — Dr. Johnson's 
hypochondria — Hereditary suicide, illustrated by cases — Suicide firom 
blows on the head, and firom moral shocks communicated to the brain — 
Dr. G. Mantell's valuable observations and cases demonstrative of the 
point— Concluding remarks p. 130 — 161 



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Xn CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER IX. 

MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

Diseases of the brain not dissimilar to affections of other organs — Early 
symptoms of insanity — The good effects of having plenty to do— Occu- 
pation — Dr. Johnson's opinion on the subject — ^The pleasure derived 
from cultivating a taste for the beauties of nature — Effect of volition oq 
diseases of the mind — Silent grief injurious to mental health — ^Treatment 
of ennui^ The time of danger, not the time of disease — The Walcheren 
expedition — The retreat of the ten thousand Greeks under Xenophon — 
Influence of music on the mind in the cure of disease — Cure of epidemic 
suicide— Buonaparte's remedy— How the women of Miletus were cured 
of the disposition to suicide, and other illustrations — Cases shewing how 
easily the disposition to suicide may be diverted — On the cure of insanity 
by stratagems — On the importance of removing the suicidal patient from 
his own home — On the regulation of the passions - - p. 162 — 194 

CHAPTER X. 

PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 

On the dependence of irritability of temper on physical disease — Voltaire and 
an Englishman agree to commit suicide — ^Tbe reasons that induced Vol- 
taire to change his mind — The ferocity of Robespierre accounted for — 
The state of his body after death — The petulance of Pope dependent on 
physical causes — Suicide from cerebral congestion, treatment of — ^Ad- 
vantages of bloodletting, with cases — Damien insane — Cold applied to the 
head, of benefit — Good effects of purgation — Suicide caused by a tape- 
worm—Early indications of the disposition to suicide — ^The suicidal eye — 
Of the importance of carefully watching persons disposed to suicide-^ 
Cunning of such patients — Numerous illustrations — The fondness for a 
particular mode of death — Dr. Burrows* extraordinary case — Dr. Conolly 
on the treatment of suicide — Cases shewing the advantage of confinement, 

p. 195—220 

CHAPTER XL 
IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 

The instinct of self-preservation — The love of life — Dr. Wolcott's death-bed — 
Anecdote of the Duke de Montebello-— Louis XL of France — Singular 



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CONTENTS, XUl 

death of a celebrated lawyer — Dr. Johnson's horror of dying — The 
organ of destruction universal — Illustrations of its influence — Sir W. Scott, 
on the motives that influence men in battle — Have we any test of in- 
sanity? — Mental derangement not a specific disease — Importance of 
keeping this in view — Insanity not always easily detected — Is lowness of 
spirits an evidence of derangement ? — The cunning of lunatics — E^quirol's 
opinion that insanity is always present — Moral insanity-— The remarkable 
case of Frederick of Prussia — Suicide often the first symptom of insanity — 
Cases in which persons have been restored to reason from loss of blood, 
after attempting suicide — The cases of Cato, Sir Samuel Romilly, Lord 
Castlereagh, Colton, and Chatterton, examined — Concluding remarks, 

p. 221—245 



CHAPTER XII. 



SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 

The importance of medical evidence — ^The questions which medical men have 
to consider in these cases — Signs of death from strangulation — Singular 
positions in which the bodies of those who have committed suicide have 
been found — The particulars of the Prince de Conde's case — On the pos- 
sibility of voluntary strangulation — General Pichegru's singular case — 
• The melancholy history of Marc Antonie Calas — How to discover whe- 
ther a person was dead before thrown into water — Singular cases — Admi- 
ral Caracciolo — Drowning in a bath — ^The points to keep in view in cases 
of suspicious death — Was Sellis murdered ? — Death firom wounds — The 
case of the Earl of Essex p. 246—264 



CHAPTER XIII. 



STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 

Number of suicides in the chief capitals of Europe from 1813 to 1831 — 
Statistics of death fi-om violence in London from 1828 to 1832 — Number 
of suicides in London for a century and a half — Suicides in Westminster 
firom 1812 to 1836— <Suicide more frequent among men than women — 
Mode of committing — Influence of age — Effect of the married state — 
Infantile suicides — M. Guerry on suicides in France — Cases — Suicide 
and murder — Suicide in Geneva --------p. 265 — 280 



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XIV CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



APPEABANCE8 PRESENTED AFTER DEATH IN THOSE WHO 
HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE. 

Thickness of cranium — State of membranes and vessels of brain — Osseous 
excrescences — ^Appearances discovered in one thousand three hundred and 
thirty-eight cases — Lesions of the lungs, heart, stomach, and intestines — 
Effect of long-continued indigestion ...... p. 280 — 282 



CHAPTER XV. 
SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

Introduction — Contempt of death — Eustace Budgel — M. de Boissy and his 
wife — Mutual suicides from disappointed love— Suicide from mortifica- 
tion—Mutual suicide from poverty — ^A French lady while out shooting — 
A fisherman after praying — Determination to commit if not cured — 
Extraordinary case after seduction — Madame C. from remorse— M. de 
Pontalba after trying to murder his daughter-in-law — Young lady in a pet 
— Sir George Dunbar — James Sutherland while George III. was passing — 
Lancet given by a wife to her husband to kill himself — Servant girl — 
Curious verses by a suicide — Robber on being recognised — A man who 
ordered a candle to be made of his fki — After gaming — Writing whilst 
dying— From misfortune just at a moment of relief— Curious papers 
written by a suicide — By heating a barrel in the fire — By tearing out the 
brains — Sisters by the injunction of their eldest sister — Mutual from 
poverty — Girl from a dream — Three servants in one pond — Indifference 
as to mode— By starvation — A man forty-five days without eating — mu- 
tual of two boys after dining at a restaurateur's — By putting head under 
the ice — By a pair of spectacles — By jumping amongst the bears — Young 
lady from gambling — Verses by a suicide — To obtain salvation — A lover 
after accidentally shooting his mistress — Mutual attempt — M. Kleist and 
Madame Vogle — Richard Smith and wife — Love and suicide — Bishop of 
Grenoble — Suicide in a pail of water — Mutual suicide of two soldiers^- 
Lord Scarborough — A man who advertised to kill himself for benefit of 
family— The case of Creech, and the romantic history of Madame de 
Monier— Suicide of M. — , after threatening to kill his brother — ^Two 
young men—Two lovers — Homicide and suicide from jealousy — Cure of 
penchant for suicide — Attempt at prevented — Man in a belfry — Attempt 
at — The extraordinary case of Lovat by crucifixion - - p. 283 — 334 



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CONTENTS, XV 



CHAPTER XVI. 

CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED BY LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENTS ? 

INFLUENCE OF MORAL INSTRUCTION. — CONCLUSION. 

The legitimate object of punishment — ^The argument of Beccaria — A legal 
solecism — A suicide not amenable to human tribunals — Evidence at 
coroners'- courts ex-parte — The old law of no advantage — No penal-law 
will restrain a man from the commission of suicide. — Verdict oi felo-de-se 
punishes the innocent, and therefore unjust — All suicides insane, and 
therefore not responsible agents — The man who reasons himself into 
suicide not of sound mind — Rational mode of preventing suicide by pro- 
moting religious education -----.----p. 335 — 340 - 



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ERRATA 

Page 46, for " mens conscia^ &c. read mens $ana tn corportt sano, and for 
" Horace" read Juvp.K A L. 



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THE 



ANATOMY OF SUICIDE, 



CHAPTER I. 



SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. — ANCIENT LAWS AND 
OPINIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF SUICIDE. 

E xamples of antiquity no defence of su icide — C auses of ancient <^|iinidps — 
The suicSesonAsdrubal^icocles^Isocrates, Demosthenes, Hannibal, 
Mithridates, the inhabitants of the city of Xanthus, Cato, Charondas, 
Lycurgus, Codrus, Themistocles, Emperor Otho, Brutjiuyi^^^ji^iii^us, 
Mark Antony and Cleopatra , Petronius, Lucan, Lucius Vetus, Sardana- 
pduSj^T! Curtius, EmpeJocles, Theoxena, — Noble resistance of Jose- 
phus — Scripture suicides: Samson. SaiU._AhitQDbe_li^J[ftdaa-Jacadp t, 
Eleazgi^mJtgjil — Qoctrines of the stoics, Seneca, Epictetus, Zeno^- 
Opinions of Cicero, Pliny, on suicide — Ancient laws on suicide. 

Human actions are more under the influence of example than 
precept ; consequently, suicide has often been justified by an 
appeal to the laws and customs of past ages. An undue 
reverence for the authority of antiquity induces tis to rely 
more upon what has been said or done in former times, than 
upon the dictates of our own feelings and judgment. Many 
have formed the most extravagant notions of honour, liberty, 
arid courage, and, under the impression that they were 
imitating the noble example of some ancient hero, have 
sacrificed their lives. They urge in their defence that 
suicide has been enjoined by positive laws, and allowed by 
ancient custom; that the greatest and bravest nation in the 

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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 



world practised it; and that the most wise and virtuous 
sect of philosophers taught that it was an evidence of 
courage^ magnanimity^ and virtue. There is no mode of 
reasoning so fallacious as that which is constantly appealing 
to examples. A man who has made up his mind to the 
adoption of a particular course can easily discover reasons 
to justify himself in carrying out his preconceived opinions. 
If a contemplated action^ abstractedly considered, be good, 
cases may be of service in illustrating it There must be 
some test by which to form a correct estimate of the just- . 
ness or lawfulness of human actions ; and until we are agreed 
as to what ought to constitute that standard, examples are per- 
fectly useless. No inferences deduced from the consideration 
of the suicides of antiquity can be logically applied to modem 
instances. We live under a Christian dispensation.^ Our no- 
tions of death, of honour, and of courage, are, in laany respects, 
so dissimilar from those which the ancients entertained, that 
the subject of suicide is placed entirely on a different basis. 
In the early periods of history, self-destruction was considered 
as an evidence of courage ; death was preferred to dishonour. 
These principles were inculcated by celebrated philosophers, 
who exercised a great influence over the minds of the people ; 
and, in many instances, the act of self-immolation constituted 
a part of their religion. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that 
so many men, eminent for their genius, and renowned for 
their valour, should, under such circumstances, have sacri- 
ficed themselves? 

The famous suicides of antiquity generally resulted from 
one of three causes: — First, it was practised by those who 
wished to avoid pain and personal suffering of body and mind; 
secondly, when a person considered the act as a necessary 
vindication of his honour; and thirdly, when life was sacri- 
ficed as an example to others. 

The first class is the most excusable of the three. Pain, 
physical or mental, puts a man's courage severely to the test. 
He may have to choose between the alternative of years of 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 3 

^unmitigated anguish^ or an immediate release from torture. 
Need we feel surprise at many resorting to the latter alter- 
native, when they have been taught to believe death either to 
be an eternal sleep, or a sure entrance into regions of hap- 
piness I 

How many instances have we on record of persons who 
have dispatched themselves to avoid falling into the hands of 
an enemy 1 The case of the wife of Asdrubal, the Cartha- 
ginian general, is a famous instance of the kind. Asdrubal 
. had deserted his post, and had fled to Scipio ; and during 
his absence his wife took shelter with her troops in the 
temple, which she set on fire. She then attired herself in 
her richest robes, and holding her two children in her hands, 
addressed Scipio — ^who had surrounded the building with his 
troops — in the following language : — " You, O Roman, are 
only acting according to the laws of open war ; but may the 
gods of Carthage, and those in concert with them, punish 
that &lse wretch who, by such a base desertion, has betrayed 
his country, his gods, his wife, his children I Let him adorn 
thy gay triumph; let him suflFer in the sight of all Rome 
those indignities and tortures he so justly merits I" 

The case of Nicocles, King of Paphos, in Cyprus, who 
committed suicide in conjunction with his wife and daughter, 
on the approach of King Ptolemy, is another in point 
Isocrates, the celebrated Athenian orator, starved himself to 
death, sooner than submit to the dominion of. Philip of 
Macedon. Demosthenes also poisoned himself, when Anti- 
pater, Alexander's ambassador, required the Athenians to 
deliver up their orators, fearful of being subjected to slavery 
and disgrace. 

The persecution to which the Romans subjected Hannibal, 
after he was oppressed with years and sunk in obscurity, 
impelled him to have recourse to the poison which he always 
kept about him in a ring, against sudden emergencies. 
Mithridates took poison, and administered the same to his 
wives and daughters, in order to escape being taken prisoner 

b2 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENT8. 



by Pompey, before whose victorious arms he had been com- 
pelled to fly. 

The case of the inhabitants of the city of Xanthus is another 
remarkable instance of the determination exhibited by thou- 
sands of persons, resolved sooner to die by their own hands 
than submit to the dominion of a conqueror. Notwithstanding 
the proffered clemency of Brutus, who not only wept at the 
dreadful scene he witnessed, but commanded his soldiers to 
extinguish the fire, and even offered a reward for every in- 
habitant whose life was saved, the people were so eager for 
death that they rushed into the flames with exclamations of 
delight, and forceably drove back the soldiers who were sent 
by Bnitus for the purpose of saving their lives. 

The exampile of Cato is applauded by some writers as a 
proof of magnanimity ; the action was the reverse ; it was 
the effect of pride and timidity. If ever Rome required his 
experience and patriotic counsels it was at that very period. 
To desert the duty which Rome had a right to demand by a 
voluntary death was the meanest conduct in his character. 
It stamped an indelible stain on his reputation, which only a 
supposition that his intellect was impaired could rationally 
excuse. It was not the virtuous Cato who had stemmed the 
torrent of tyranny, who had crushed the Cataline conspiracy, 
who had given the most noble examples of virtuous resolution 
and rectitude in moral conduct, but the enfeebled Cato, sink- 
ing under the accumulation of evils, whose soul was depressed 
with suspense and distracting passions, waiting an oppor- 
tunity for revenge, or preparing to finish his life on the first 
disappointment 

If such examples were admitted magnanimous, in any 
serious quarrel or war, where success could not be com- 
manded, it might be considered laudable to commit suicide. 
The consequences of such reasoning would be obvious. On 
such occasions, countries would lose their bravest generals, pri 
vate families their noblest and most experienced supporters. 

" ICJcannot acquircL what I wish," says Cato^_^^I will kill 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 5 

myself; I will not live to grace Caesar's triumph, though I 
know Caesar to be the most generous and clement of con- 
querors; I cannot consent to receive Caesar's favours. My 
pride is wounded ; my fears destroy all tranquillity ; my body 
is sinking under adversity ; I will not dedicate my services to 
my distressed country imder the auspices of successful Caesar. 
I will plunge a sword into my bosom, and commit an injustice 
to myself, which through a long life I never committed to 
others. From the uniformity of my former patriotic character, 
writers, without deep reasoning, will paint this concluding 
action in glowing colours ; they will give additional .lustre to 
an immortal reputation." Such, we conceive, were the secret 
springs of action in Cato's mind ; such were the contending 
passions which excited the delirium. It was not the placid, 
judicious Cato of former years, but the depressed Cato, impos 
mentisj committing a rash action, contrary to all his former 
great reasoning, and virtuous persevering conduct It was, 
in fact, Cato's act of insanity ; it was not dying to serve 
his country, but to effectually rob Caesar of his eminent 
services ; it therefore appears more the effect of private 
pique and despondency than a demonstration of public virtue 
or courage. Had all others concerned in that, civil war fol- 
lowed this extraordinary example, the country would have 
been robbed of many of its brightest ornaments. Cato could 
not say with Horace, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria 
mori," for it was not for his countrymen that he died, but to 
gratify a selfish caprice, a, personal resentment and hatred to 
Caesar and his power. Had Caesar attacked the city while 
Cato enjoyed a vigour of mind and body, and when the 
citizens were better disciplined and less corrupt, he would 
have despised such inglorious conduct ; he would rather have 
hoped for some future opportunity to dispel the dark clouds 
overwhelming the distracted country. 

Physicians have frequent opportunities of observing the 
diminution of human courage and wisdom from long con- 



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6 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

tinued misfortunes, or bodily infirmities. The most lively, 
spirited, and enterprising, have become depressed from reite- 
rated disappointment ; cowardice and despair have succeeded 
to the most unquestionable bravery and ambition. The man 
is then changed ; his blood is changed ; and with these his 
former sentiments. The timidity is no longer Cato's, but 
belongs to the miserable debiUtated body of Cato, which had 
lost that vigorous soul that so eminently distinguished on other 
important occasions this excellent and divine patriot 
La Motte observes, with reference to Cato's death — 

*' Stern Cato, with more equal soul, 
^ Had bowed to Cesar's wide control. 

With Rome, had to her conqueror bowed. 
But that his spirit, rough and proud, 
Had not the courage to await 
A pardoned foe's too humbling fate." 

Voltaire, in alluding to the lines quoted above, says, ** It 
was, I believe, because Cato's soul was always equal, and re- 
tained to the last its love for his country and her laws, that 
he chose rather to perish with her than to crouch to the 
tyrant He died as he had lived. 

" Incapable of surrendering, and to whom ? to the enemy 
of Rome — to the man who had forcibly robbed the public 
treasury in order to make war upon his fellow citizens, and 
enslave them by means of their own money. A pardoned 
foe I It seems as if La Motte Houdart was speaking of some 
revolted subject who might have obtained his Majesty's par- 
don by letters in chancery. It seems (continues Voltaire) 
rather absurd to say that Cato slew himself through weakness. 
None but a strong mind can thus surmount the most power- 
fiil instinct of nature. This strength is sometimes that of 
frenzy ; but a frantic man is not weaL" 

In forming an estimate of the condition of Cato's mind, 
we must not look at him as delineated by the dramatist and 
poet, but as exhibited by the historian and philosopher. 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 7 

Our notions of Cato are too often based on Addison's^ and not 
Plutarch's description of his character. That Cato was one 
of the most complete and perfect examples in antiquity of 
private manners and of public spirit cannot be questioned ; 
and therefore, in this respect, worthy to be held up as an 
example. Sallust thus eulogizes Cato : — " His glory can neither 
be increased by flattery nor lessened by detraction. He was 
one who chose to be, rather than to appear good. He was 
the very image of virtue, and in all points of disposition 
more like the gods than men. He never did right that he 
might seem to do right, but because he could not do otherwise. 
That only seemed to be reasonable which was just. Free 
from all human vices, he was superior to the vicissitudes of 
fortune.'* It was the dignity of Cato's life that stamped a . 
celebrity on the mode of his death. 

In forming a judgment of the motives which led this dis- 
tinguished man to sacrifice his life, we must look at him 
in connexion with his great enemy, Caesar. He was not 
only opposed to him on public, but on private grounds. 
Caesar's intimacy with Servilia, Cato's sister, was the ground 
of much conversation at Rome. During one of the debates 
concerning the Cataline conspiracy, Caesar received a letter 
whilst he was in the senate house. Cato, who had intimated 
that Caesar had been privy to Cataline's proceedings, and 
believing that the letter might refer to the subject, from the 
manner in which Caesar endeavoured to conceal it, demanded 
that it should be handed over to him. The letter was accord- 
ingly handed to" Cato, when, perceiving that it was a letter 
from Servilia to Caesar, ftiU of protestations of love to his 
deadliest enemy, he threw it at Caesar in a great rage, and 
called him a drunkard. This, added to the circumstance of 
Caesar's complete triumph over him, induced Cato to put an 
end to his own life. He did not ^commit suicide to defeat 
usurpation, or to preserve the liberties and laws of Rome, 
but it was done when he despaired of his country. It arose 



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8 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

from his horror of tyranny, and the feeling of intolerable 
shame at the prospect of a long life imder an arbitrary master. 
The superstructure of years was in a moment levelled to the 
dust He had to choose between death or slavery. After 
the defeat at Thapsus, and hearing that Caesar was marching 
against him, Lucius Caesar offered to intercede for Cato. 
His answer was as follows : — " If I would save my life, I 
ought to go myself; but I will not be beholden to the tyrant 
for any act of his injustice ; and 'tis unjust for him to pre- 
tend to pardon those as a lord over whom he has no lawful 
power." Although it was evident he was bent upon suicide, 
he persuaded his son to go to Caesar, and cautioned his 
friend Statilius, whom Plutarch calls *^ a known Caesar- 
hater," not to kill himself, but to submit to the conqueror. 
He then entered into a discussion concerning liberty, which 
he carried on so violently that his friends were apprehensive 
that he would lay hands on himsel£ In consequence of thisi, 
his son removed his sword. Cato is then represented as 
reading Plato's Phaedo, and then calling for his sword, which 
they refused to bring him. He called a second and third 
time, and in a fit of rage he struck the servant, and wounded 
him, and by doing so, injured his own hand, which prevented 
him from effectually killing himself with his weapon. After 
he had stabbed himself, his wound was dressed ; but so deter- 
mined was he to sacrifice his life, that he tore open the 
wound forcibly, and pulled his bowels out, and thus effected 
his purpose.* 

It has t^een said that Addison approved of Cato's self- 

* Casar's reply on being told of Cato's death was reported to be — ** Cato, 
I envy thee thy death, for thou hast envied me the preservation of thy life ;'* 
on which Plutarch remarks, " Had Cato suffered himself to be preserved by 
Caesar, it is likely he would not so much have impaired his own honour, as 
augmented the other's clemency and glory." But Cato's own idea was, that 
it was an insupportable instance of Caesar's tyranny and usurpation that he 
should " pretend'' to shew clemency in saving lives over whom he had no 
legal authority. 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 9 

murder. This does not appear to be the fact, if we are to 
judge from the words which he has put in the mouth of the 
dying hero — 

'* I am sick to death ; oh, when shall I get loose 
From this vain world, the abode of guilt and sorrow 1 
And yet methinks a beam of light breaks in 
On my departing soul. Alas, I fear 
I have been too hasty ! O ye powers that search 
The heart of man, and weigh his inmost though ts^ 
If I have done amiss, impute it not : 
The best may err, but you are good, and — (dies.y 

Two celebrated instances amongst the Grecians of men 
who voluntarily sacrificed their lives in order to maintain the 
dignity and importance of their own institutions, are exhibited 
in the cases of Charondas and Lycurgus. The former, in 
order to encourage a proper freedom of debate, had made it 
death to come armed into the assembly of the states. One 
day, coming himself in haste to a convention without having first 
laid aside his sword, he was rebuked by some one present, as 
a transgressor of his own laws. Stung with the justice of the 
imputation, he instantly plunged the sword into his own heart, 
both as a sacrifice to the violated majesty of the law, and a 
tremendous example of disinterested justice ; trusting, more- 
over, thus to seal with his own blood a strict observance in 
others of his wholesome institutions. 

When Lycurgus had accomplished his great work of legis- 
lation in Sparta, he took the following method of rendering 
his system unchangeable and immortaL He stated that it 
was necessary that he should consult the Delphian oracle re- 
lative to his new laws. He then made all the Spartan magis- 
trates and people take a solemn oath that they would observe 
and keep his laws inviolate ** till his return." He accordingly 
went to consult the oracle, and having sent back the answer 
in writing to Sparta, "That the laws were excellent, and 
would render the people great and happy who should observe 
them," he resolved never to return himself, in order that the 
people might never be absolved from their oath. He ac- 



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10 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

cordingly starved himself to death. Plutarch considers that 
Lycurgus reasoned himself into the act, under the belief that 
a good statesman and patriot should seek to make his death 
itself in some way useful to his country. The same authority 
considers that he intended the mode of his death to be a prac- 
tical illustration of the great principle which pervaded the 
whole code of his laws, which was — temperance. 

Alike honourable, in a worldly point of view, was the death 
of Codrus, King of Athens. The oracle was consulted with 
reference to the condition of the country. That nation was 
predicted to be prosperous whose king should be first slain 
by the enemy. Codrus di^uised himself as a private soldier, 
and entered the enemy's camp, where he contrived to pick a 
quarrel with the first man he met, whom he permitted to slay 
him ; thus, for the good of his country, courting his own death. 

Themistocles is said to have poisoned himself rather than 
lead on the Persian army against his own countrymen, 
although fame, wealth, and honour were within his grasp. 

The Emperor Otho, to avoid the fiirther sacrifice of life in 
the imperial contest, resolved to die by his own hands, not- 
withstanding his troops implored and beseeched him to lead 
them on to a second engagement in which victory was almost 
certain. King Otho's answer to the demand of his soldiers 
is considered to embody the spirit of true Roman heroism — 
** Deny me not the glory of laying down my own life to pre- 
serve yours. The more hope there is left, the more honour- 
able is my early retirement ; since it is by my death alone 
that I can prevent the fiirther effusion of Roman blood, and 
restore peace and tranquillity to a distracted empire, by 
being ready to die for its peace and security."* 

* The affection and resolution of an obscure private soldier was very re- 
markable, who, standing before Otho with his drawn sword, spoke thus — 
<' Behold in my action an instance of the unshaken fidelity of all your 
soldiery. There is not one of us but would strive thus to preserve thee," and 
immediately he stabbed himself to the heart. Many private soldiers, after 
Otho's death, gave the same proof of fidelity to their deceased lord. — Flutarchh 
Life of Otho, 



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SUICroES OF THE ANCIENTS. 11 

Two of the most distinguished men of antiquity who sacri* 
ficed their own lives were Brutus and Cassius. Before their 
battle with Csesar on the plains of Philippic these two warriors 
had a conversation on suicide. Cassius asked Brutus what 
his opinions were on the subject of self-destruction, provided 
fortune did not £sivour them in the contest in which they 
were about to be engaged. Brutus replied^ that formerly he 
had embraced such sentiments as induced him to condemn 
Cato for killing himself; he deemed it an act of irreverence 
towards the gods, and that it was no evidence of courage. But 
he continues, ''Now, in the midst of dangers, I am quite of 
another mind." He then proceeds to tell Cassius of his deter- 
mination to surrender up his life " on the Ides of March." He 
states no particular reasons for having changed his opinions 
on the subject of suicide. The issue of the battle is well 
known. Many things conspired to damp the courage of 
Cassius and Brutus. In imitation of Caesar, Brutus made a 
public lustration for his army in the field, and during the cere- 
mony an unlucky omen is said to have happened to Cassius. 
The garland he was to wear at the sacrifice was given to him 
the wrong side outwards; the person, also, who bore the 
golden image before Cassius stumbled, and the image fell to 
the ground. Several birds of prey hovered about his camp, 
and swarms of bees were seen within the trenches. Cassius, 
believing in the Epicurean philosophy, considered all these 
circumstances as disheartening omens of his fate. After the 
defeat of Cassius, he ordered his fireedman to kill him, which 
he did by severing his head fi:om his body. 

Plutarch makes Brutus die most stoically. After having 
taken an affectionate leave of his fiiends, and having assured 
them that he was only angry with fortune for his country's 
sake, since he esteemed himself in his death more happy than 
his conquerors, he advised them to provide for their own safety. 
He then retired, and, with the assistance of Strato, he ran his 
sword through his body. Dion Cassius (Lib. xlvii) repre- 
sents Brutus as far firom acting the stoic at his last moments. 



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12 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

He is said just before his death to have quoted the following 
passage from Euripides — " O wretched virtue ! thou art a 
bare name ! I mistook thee for a substance ; but thou thyself 
art the slave of fortune." 

In considering the motives that induced Brutus to destroy 
himself, we must not forget to take into calculation the effecl 
which the apparition he saw previous to the battle of Philippi 
must have had on his mind. Brutus was naturally watchful, 
sparing in his diet, and allowed himself but little time for 
sleep. He never retired to rest, day or night, until he had 
arranged all his business. At this time, involved as he was in 
the operations of war, and solicitous for the event, he only 
slumbered a little after supper, and spent the remainder of the 
night in attending to his most urgent afiairs. When these 
were dispatched, he occupied himself in reading till the third 
watch, when the tribunes and centurions came to him for 
orders. Thus, a little before he left Asia, he was sitting alone 
in his tent, by a dim light, at a late hour. The whole army 
lay in sleep and silence, while Brutus, wrapped in meditation, 
thought he perceived something enter his tent ; turning to- 
wards the door, he saw a monstrous and horrible spectre 
standing by the side of his bed. "What art thou?" said he, 
boldly. The spectre answered, " I am thy evil genius, Brutus ! 
Thou wilt see me at Philippi." To which he calmly replied, 
" I'll meet thee there." In the morning he communicated to 
Cassius what he had seen. Cassius, who was an Epicurean, 
had often disputed with Brutus on the subject of apparitions. 
He said, when he had heard the statement of Brutus, that the 
spectre was not a spirit, but a real being ; and ai^ued at con- 
siderable length on the subject, and induced the general to 
think that his fate was decided. There can be no doubt but 
that this singular presentiment co-operated with other circum* 
stances in inducing Brutus to fall by his own hands,* 



* It is said that the night before the battle the same spectre appeared to 
BrutuSy but vanished without saying anything. 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. ^3^. 

Amo ngst the ancient suicidesy-those of Mark Antony and ^ 
< Cleopaiia dpsftrvp. espp^i^l ^ftpfiidpration. It is not our purpose 
to enter into an elaborate history of these celebrated charac- 
ters , but merely toxeier to those circumstances JiiaLJl§d_an 
immediate connexion .witLJhdoLlpst moments. 

Three circumstances acted powflrfiilly on,. Antonyms mind in 
inducing him to seek a voluntary death. The first was hjs 
hav ing Ipeen defeated by rigoaflr- ±}x^ ai^ni;^i^f\^ ^ idcs.iliat . 
Clegj^atra had betrayed him ; and the third was, t>i<^ Iv^li^^f \p 
Cleopatra's death. 

As soon as Antony was defeated^ the unhappy queen fled 
to her monument, ordered all the doors to be barred, and com- 
manded that Antony should be informed that she was dead. 
He was overwhelmed with grief, and retiring to his chamber, 
opened his coat of mail, and ordered his faithful servant Eros 
(who had been engaged to kill him whenever he should think 
it necessary) to dispatch him. Eros drew his sword, and, in- 
stead of killing his master, ran it through his own body, and 
fell dead at Antony's feet Antony then plunged his sword 
into his bowels, and threw himself on the couch. The wound 
was not, however, immediately fatal. In a short period after, 
Diomedes, Cleopatra's servant, came to Antony with a request 
that he would instantly repair to her chamber. His delight 
was unbounded when he heard that Cleopatra was alive, and 
he directly ordered his servant to carry him to her. As she 
would not allow the doors to be opened, Antony was drawn 
up to her window by a cord. He was suspended for a con- 
siderable time in the air stretching out his hands to Cleopatra. 
Notwithstanding she exerted all her strength, strained every 
nerve, and distorted her features in endeavouring to draw him 
up, it was with the greatest difficulty it was effected. Cleo- 
patra laid him on the bed, and, standing over him, so extreme 
was her anguish, that she rent her clothes, and beat and 
wounded her breast After Antony's death, when Cleopatrai 
heard that Caesar had dispatched Gallus to take her prisonerj 



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14 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

^ and that he had efFected an entrance into the monument, she 
attempted to stab herself with a dagger which she always carried 
about with her for that purpose. When she heard that it was 
^Caesar's intention to send her into Syria, she asked permission 
to visit Antony's tomb, over which she poured forth most 
bitter lamentations. ''Hide me, hide me,'' she exclaimed, 
'' with thee in the grave ; for life, since thou hast left it, has 
been misery to m^." After crowning the tomb with flowers, 
she kissed it, and ordered a bath to be prepared. She then 
sat down to a magnificent supper ; after which, a peasant came 
to the gate with a small basket of figs covered with leaves, 
which was admitted into the monument Amongst the figs 
and under the leaves was concealed the asp, which Cleopatra 
applied to her bosom. She was found dead, attired in one 
of her most gorgeous dresses, decorated with brilliants, and 
PI. IjJTMf on her golden bed. 

Few of the illustrious men of antiquity have exhibited such 
philosophic coohiess as Petronius, after he had determined to 
sacrifice his life. The levity which distinguished his voluntary 
death was in accordance with the gaiety and frivolity of his 
life. The capricious friendship of a Nero had been withdrawn 
from him, and in consequence he had determined on his own 
death. This arbiter elegantiarum during life, determined to 
indulge in a luxurious refinement of that death he was pre- 
paring to encounter. Being well aware he could not long 
escape from the murderous edict, after a fall from the summit 
of imperial favour, he opened and closed his veins at pleasure. 
He slept during the intervals, or sauntered about and enjoyed 
the delights of conversation with his fiiends ; but his discourse 
was not of so elevated a character as that attributed to Seneca 
or Socrates. 

The poet Lucan exhibited great apparent serenity at the 
approach of death. After the veins of his arm had been 
voluntarily opened, and he had lost a lai^e quantity of blood, 
he felt his hands and his legs losing their vitality. As the 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 15 

hour of death approached, he commenced repeating several 
lines out of his own Pharsalia, descriptive of a person similarly 
situated to himself. These lines he repeated until he died. 

Cocceius Nerva starved himself to death in the reign of 
Tiberius. It was said that he was displeased with the state of 
public affairs, and had made up his mind to die whilst his own 
integrity remained unsullied. 

During the bloody reign of Nero, many singular suicides 
took place. The particulars attending the deaths of Lucius 
Vetus, his mother-in-law Sextia, and PoUutia his daughter, 
are worth recording. After Lucius had distributed all his 
wealth among his domestics, requesting them to remove every- 
thing from his house excepting three couches, he, with his 
mother-in-law and daughter, retired into the same chamber, 
opened a vein with the same lancet, and after, reclining each 
on a separate couch, waited calmly the approach of death. 
His eyes, and those of his mother-in-law, were both fixed on 
the daughter, while the daughter's wandered from one to 
the other. It was the earnest prayer of each of them to 
die first, and to leave the others in the act of expiring.* 

When the throne of Sardanapalus was endangered, he con- 
ceived a magnificent and truly luxurious mode of committing 
suicide, quite in character with the extravagance and disso- 
luteness of his former life. He erected a funeral pile of great 
height in his palace, and adorned it with the most sumptuous 
and costly ornaments. In the middle of this building was a 
chamber of one htmdred feet in length, built of wood, in 
which a number of golden couches and tables were spread. 
On one of these he reclined with his wife, his numerous con- 
cubines occupying the rest The building was encompassed 
round at some distance with large beams and thick wood, to 
prevent all egress from the place. Much combustible matter, and 
an immense pile of wood were also placed within, together with 
an infinite quantity of gold and silver, royal vestments, costly 

• Tac. An. xvi. 



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16 8uicidIs of the ancients. 

apparel^ rich furniture, curious ornaments, and all the appa- 
ratus of luxury and magnificence. All being arranged, this 
splendid funeral pile was set on fire, and continued burn- 
ing until the fifteenth day ; duriqg which time Sardanapalus 
revelled in all kinds of sensualities. The multitude without 
were in astonishment at the tremendous scene, and at the 
immense clouds of incense and smoke which issued with the 
flames. It was stated that the king was engaged in offering 
some extraordinary sacrifices; while the attendants within 
alone knew that this dissolute prince was putting such a 
splendid end to his effeminate life.* 

There has been some dispute as to the death of Marcus 
Curtius. Plutarch attributes his death to accident, but 
Procillius considers that it was voluntary. He says, the earth 
having opened at a particular time, the Aruspices declared it 
necessary, for the safety of the republic, that the bravest man 
in the city should throw himself into the gulf; whereupon 
Curtius, mounting his horse, leaped armed into it, and the 
gulf immediately closed. But Livy and Dionysius relate 
the circumstance in a different manner. They say that 
Curtius was a Sabine, who, having at first repulsed the 
Romans, but being in his turn overpowered by Romulus, and 
endeavouring to make good his retreat, fell into the lake, 
which from that time bore his name. The lake was situated 
almost in the centre of the Roman forum. Some writers 
consider the name was derived from Curtius the Consul, be- 
cause he caused it to be walled in after it had been struck 
with lightning.^ 

The death of the celebrated philosopher and poet, Em- 

* At Anchiale, there was a monument erected to the memory of Sarda- 
napalus. It consisted of an image carved in stone work, and having the 
thumb and the finger of the right hand joined, as if making some sound or 
noise with them. On the monument was inscribed these words in Assyrian 
characters : " Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndarax, founded Anchiale and 
Tyre in one day. Eat, drink, and be merry. As for the rest, it is not worth 
the snap of the finger." 

f Varro de Ling, Lat,^ lib. iv. 



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SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 17 

pedocles, of Sicily, was remarkable. Wishing to be believed 
a god, and that his death might be unknown, he threw him- 
self into the crater of Mount iEtna, and perished in the 
flames. The mode of his death was not discovered until 
some time afterwards, when one of his sandals was thrown 
up from the volcano. 

Ancient history affords us many noble examples of indi- 
viduals who preferred voluntary death to dishonour and loss 
of character. K ever self-murder could be considered as in 
the slightest degree justifiable, it would be under such circum- 
stances. Who cannot but honour the conduct of the noble 
virgins of Macedon, who ihrew themselves into the wells, and 
courted death, sooner than submit to the dishonourable pro- 
posals of the Roman governor I When Theoxena was pur- 
sued by the emissaries of Philip, king of Macedon, who had 
been guilty of murdering her first husband, she produced a 
dagger and a box of poison, and placing them before the 
crew of the^ ship in which she was endeavouring to make 
her escape, she said, " Death is now our only remedy and 
means of vengeance ; let each take the method that best 
pleases himself of avoiding the tyrant's pride, cruelty, and 
lust. Come on, my brave companions and family, seize the 
sword or drink of the cup, as you prefer an instantaneous or 
gradual death." Some fell on the sword, others drank the 
poison until death was effected. After Theoxena had accom- 
plished her designs, she threw herself into the arms of her 
husband, and they both plunged into the sea. 

The resistance which Josephus made to the importunities 
of his soldiers to fall by his own hand sooner than surrender 
to the enemy, is perhaps the most noble instance of the kind 
on record. After the success of the Romans in Judaea, Jo- 
sephus, who commanded the Jewish army, wished to deliver 
himself up to his conquerors; he was encouraged to this 
by certain dreams and visions. When Josephus's inten- 
tion was known, the soldiers flocked round him, and ex- 
pressed their indignation at his intention. They urged him 

c 

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18 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

to fall by his own sword, and to let them follow his example, 
sooner than abandon the field. To this appeal Josephus 
replies, " Oh, my friends, why are you so earnest to kill your- 
selves ? why do you set your soul and body, which are such 
dear companions, at such variance ? It is a brave thing to 
die in war, but it should be by the hands of the enemy. It 
is a foolish thing to do that for ourselves, which we quarrel 
with them for doing to us. It is a brave thing to die for 
liberty ; but still it should be in battle, and by those who would 
take that liberty from us. He is equally a coward who will 
not die when he is obliged to die. What are we afraid of, 
when we will not go up and meet the Romans ? Is it death ? 
Why then inflict it on ourselves? You say. We must be 
slaves. Are we then in a clear state of liberty at present ? 
Self-murder is a crime most remote from the common nature 
of all animals, and an instance of impiety against God our 
Creator." 

Josephus, in the spirit of a true philosopher, urged his 
soldiers to abandon the notion of suicide ; but instead of being 
calmed by his discourse, they became enraged, and rushed 
on him. Fearing that the case was hopeless, Josephus pre- 
vailed upon them to listen to the following proposal He 
persuaded them to draw lots; the man on whom the first 
lot fell was to be killed by him who had the second, and the 
second by the third, and so on. In this way no soldier would 
perish by his own hand, except the last man. Lots were 
accordingly drawn ; Josephus drew his with the rest. He 
who had the first lot willingly submitted his neck to him who 
had the second. It happened that Josephus and a soldier 
were left to draw lots ; and as the general was desirous neither 
to imbrue his own hand in the blood of his countryman, nor 
to be condemned by lot himself, he persuaded the soldier to 
trust his fidelity, and to live as well as himself. Thus ended 
this tragical scene, and Josephus immediately surrendered 
himself up to Vespasian. 

The first instance of suicide recorded in Scripture is that 



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SUICroES OF THE ANCIENTS. 



d> 



of Samson. After suffering many indignities from the hands 
of the Philistines, his anger was roused to the highest pitch, 
and; resting against the pillars that supported the building in 
which the lords of the Philistines and an infinite number of 
others were assembled^ he offered up the following prayer : 
" O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen 
me, I pray thee, only this once, O God^ that I may at once 
be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes ;•* and taking 
hold of the pillars, he said, " Let me die with the Philis- 
tines: and he bowed himself with all his might, and the 
house fell upon the lords and all that were therein ; so that 
the dead which he slew at his death were more than they 
which he slew in his life." 

In Samson's case, there is nothing said in Scripture either 
to condemn or justify the act ; but it appears evident from 
the whole history of the last events of his life, that he 
was but an instrument in the hands of God for the accom- 
plishment of his wise purposes. The glory of God had been 
violated in the person of Samson ; he had been subjected by 
the Philistines to great indignities ; and it was to demonstrate 
the power of God in the destruction of his enemies that 
Samson's life was sacrificed. Samson is, then, to be consi- 
dered as a martyr to his religion and his God. 

The case of Saul has also been cited. It is thus referred to^ 
in Scripture : — " And the battle went sore against Saul, and 
the archers hit him, and he was sore wounded of the archers. 
Then said Saul unto his armourbearer. Draw thy sword, and 
thrust me through therewith, lest these uncircumcised come 
and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armour- 
bearer would not, for he was sore afraid ; therefore Saul took 
a sword and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw 
that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword and died 
with him."i5«. 

It must be recollected that the Jews considered that a man i 
was justified in committing suicide to prevent his falling into^ 

f 1 Samuel, xxxi. 
c2 

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.'2Q SUICTOES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

the enemy's hand^ and on this account Saul was commended 
for killing himsel£ But there was nothing glorious in Saul's 
death. His army was defeated by the Philistines^ and Saul 
sounded a retreat; and as he was making his ignominious 
flight, an arrow from the ranks of the enemy hit him, and it 
was then that he implored his armour-bearer to dispatch him. 
Much has been made of the self murder of AhitopheL 
Donne has referred to it at some length. He says that in 
this case there can be *^ no room for excuse." Ahitophel 
was considered one of the wisest counsellors of his age. He 
joined Absalom in his rebellion against his lawful prince, 
David ; and when he saw that it was God^s determination to 
defeat his counsel, and that his advice for the first time was 
neglected, he became fiill of secret indignation and disap- 
pointment; and in order to avoid the consequences of his 
own utter despair and ruin, for his perfidy, he hanged him- 
self. Nothing can be urged in justification of this act The 
&cts are presented to us in biblical histoiy ; and we are left 
to form our own judgment upon the course which this " Ma- 
chiavelian counsellor," as he has been termed, thought proper 
to adopt. 
vX^onne has also cited the case of Judas Iscariot* He must 

/Orhis is the only case of suicide recorded in the New Testament. Judas*s 
conduct is condemned in the strongest language ; he is called in the Gospel 
of St. John (vi. 70,) " a devil, and the son of perdition ;'* and in the first 
chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, at the 25th verse, after the account given 
of his violent death, he is said to have gone to his own peculiar place, (Etc 
rbv Toirov rbv Idiov,) 

Virgil thus alludes to the '* place of punishment'* allotted to those who 
sacrifice wantonly their own lives : — 

'< Proxima deinde tenent mssti loca, qui sibi letum 
Insoutes peperere manu, lucemque perosi 
Projec^re animas. Qu^m vellent ethere in alto 
Nunc et pauperiem et daros perferre labores! 
Fas obstat. Tristique palus inamabilis und& 
AUigat, et novies Styx interfusa coercet." 

(^NBis, lib. vi. ver. 434 et seq.) 
" The next in place and punishment are they 
Who prodigally throw their souls away : 



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have been sadly in \vant of sound illustrations to have brought 
forward the instance of this traitor as a justification of the act 
of suicide. Judas has been considered by some writers as a 
martyr. Petilian said *^ that Judas, and all who killed them* 
selves through remorse of sin, ought to be accounted martyrs, 
because they punish in themselves what they grieve to have 
committed." To whom Augustine replies, " Thou hast said, 
that the traitor perished by the rope, and has left a rope be- 
hind him for such as himsel£ But we have nothing to do 
with him. We do not venerate those as martyrs who hang 
themselves." 

"^ The case, mentioned by the same authority, of Eleazar, the 
brother of Judas Maccabeus, taken from the book of the 
Maccabees, is said to be one of voluntary suicide, and where 
self-destruction was laudable. Eleazar sacrificed his own life 
for the purpose of destroying King Antiochus, and therefore 
his suicide is to be considered as a voluntary sacrifice for the 
good of his country. 

The self-destruction of Razis b fiill of horror, and can only 
be quoted as an evidence of the act of a madman. When the 
tower in which Razis was fighting against the enemy of 
Nicanor was set on fire, he fell on his own sword, ** Choosing 
rather," says the text, " to die manfiilly than &11 into the hands 
of the wicked, to be abused otherwise than beseemed his noble 
birth ; but missing his stroke through haste, the multitude also 
rushing within doors, he ran boldly up to the wall, and cast 
himself down manfiilly among the thickest of them; but they 
quickly giving back, and a space being made, he fell down in the 

Fools, who, repining at their wretched state, 

And loathing anxious life, suborn their fate : 

With late repentance now they would retrieve 

The bodies they forsook, aAd wish to live ; 

Their pains and poverty desire to bear, 

To view the light of heaven and breathe the vital air. 

But fate forbids, the Stygian floods oppose, 

And with nine circling streams the captive souls inclose." 

(Dryden.) 



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22 SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS. 

midst of a void place. Nevertheless, while there was yet breath 
within him, being inflamed with anger, he rose up; and though 
his blood gushed out like spouts of water, and his wounds were 
grievous, yet he ran through in the midst of the throng, and 
standing on a steep rock, when, as his blood was not quite 
gone, he plucked out his bowels, and taking them in both his 
hands, he cast them upon the throng, and calling upon the 
Lord of life and spirit to restore him them again, he thus 
died."* 

Having considered the remarkable suicides of antiquity, we 
will now briefly allude to those doctrines and opinions of the 
celebrated philosophers of ancient times, which must of neces- 
sity have tended to create this recklessness of human life. 

The doctrines inculcated by the stoical philosophers, or the 
disciples of Zeno, must have increased the crime of suicide. 
^^ A stoical wise man is ever ready to die for his country or his 
friends. A wise man will never look upon death as an evil ; 
that he will despise it, and be ready to undergo it at any time.'' 
" A wise man," says Diog. Laertius, in his life of Zeno, when 
expounding the stoical philosophy, ** will quit life, when op- 
pressed with severe pain, or when deprived of any of his senses, 
or when labouring under desperate diseases." It is astonishing 
that a sect of philosophers who inculcated that pain was no 
evil, should so often have practised suicide. Much as we 
would condemn such principles, still we must admit that most 
of the admired characters of antiquity belonged to this cele- 
brated sect — men distinguished for their wisdom, learning, and 
the strictness of their morals. Cato was a stoic, and he put 
into practice the principles of the sect to which he belonged, f 

• Mace. i. 6. 
t There is something sublime in the stern copiousness ip?ith which the 
stoics dwelt particularly on the facility with which suicide may be com- 
mitted. " Ante omnia cavi, ne quis^vos teneret invitos : patbt bxitus. Si 
pugnare non vultis, licet fugere. Ideoque ex omnibus rebus, quas esse vobis 
necessarias volui, nihil feci facilius, quam mori. Attendite modo et videbitis 
quam brevis ad libertatem et quam expedita ducat via. Non tam longas in 
exitu vobis quam intrantibuS; moras posui/' &c. — Seneca de Pnwidentia, in 
fine. Vide epistle Ixx: 



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ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 23 

Among the philosophers of antiquity, Seneca stands pre- 
eminently forward as the defender of suicide. He says, 
" Does life please you ? live on. Does it not ? go from whence 
you came. No vast wound is necessary ; a mere puncture will 
secure your liberty. It is a bad thing (you say) to be under 
the necessity of living ; but there is no necessity in the case. 
Thanks be to the gods, nobody can be compelled to live."* 
These were the principles of the " wise Seneca," and yet he 
wanted the courage to commit suicide when put to the test. 
He says, " Being emaciated by a severe illness, I often thought 
of suicide, but was recalled by the old age of a most indulgent 
father; for I considered not how resolutely *I' could en- 
counter death, but how ^ he' could bear up under my loss." 
This is not, however, the only instance in which Seneca 
yielded his stoical principles to the dictates of natural affection 
and rational judgment. 

Among other distinguished philosophers who advocated 
suicide was Epictetus. Although a stoic, he did not blindly 
follow the doctrines of Zeno. Epictetus considered that it 
was the duty of man to suffer to almost any extent before he 
sacrificed his own life. " If you like not life, you may leave 
it ; the door is open ; get you gone ! But a little smoke ought 
not to frighten you away; it should be endured, and will 
thereby be often surmounted." 

Epictetus followed strictly his own principles : in this re- 
spect he was superior to Seneca. Seneca was born in the lap 
of good fortune ; Epictetus was a slave, and had to pass 
through the rugged paths of adversity, bodily pain, and 
penury. Seneca was banished from Rome for an intrigue ; 
Epictetus was sent into exile for being a man of learning and 
a philosopher. 

When Epictetus was beaten unmercifiiUy by his master, he 
said, with great composure, "You will certainly break my 
leg." He did so ; and the philosopher calmly rejoined, " Did 

* Epistles xii. and Ixx. ; and De Irsi, lib, iii. 



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24 ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 

I not tell you you would do it?" This was in the true spiht 
of stoical philosophy. 

Maiv*iia AiirAli'iifl Ant/^ninnfl WAAjporhapflj one of the brightest 

ornaments of the sect of stoics. He carried into the minutest 
concern of life the doctrine of Zeno. " He was," says Gibbon, 
" severe to himself, indulgent to the imperfections of others, 
just and beneficent to all mankind." 

Zeno, the founder of the sect of stoical philosophers, acted 
up to the principles which he inculcated to his disciples. His 
suicide is recorded to be as follows : — As he was going out of 
his school one day, at the age of ninety-eight, he fell down, 
put a finger out of joint, went home, and hanged himsel£ 

Cleanthes, also, the successor of Zeno, followed the example 
of his master in philosophy, by shortening the period of his 
life in the following manner : — After having used abstinence 
for two days, by the advice of his physician, for the cure of a 
trifling indisposition under which he was labouring, he had 
permission to retimi to his former diet; but he refused all 
sustenance, saying, "that as lie had advanced so far on his 
journey towards deaths he would not retreat.^ He accordingly 
starved himself to death. 

Among the most distinguished orators of antiquity who 
spoke in favour of uicide stan ds Cicero . During his banish- 
ment he would have actually destroyed himself, if it had not 
been for his natural timidity and want of resolution. He 
^^/writes to his brother Quintus, " The tears of my friends have 
prevented me from flying to death as my refuge." 

Pliny was an advocate of suicide. In a chapter entitled 
" On God," he writes thus — " The chief comfort of man in his 
imperfect state is this, that even the Deity cannot do all things. 
For instance, he cannot put himself to death when he pleases, 
which is the greatest indulgence he has given to man amid 
the severe evils of life." Pliny belonged to the Epicureans, 
and his notions are in accordance with the doctrines of that 
sect. 

Pliny the younger appears to have had different notions on 



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ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 25 

the subject When lamenting the death of a dear friend, 
Corellius Rufus, who had killed himself he says, ^'He is 
dead — dead by his own hand, which agonizes my grief; for 
that is the most lamentable kind of death which neither pro- 
ceeds from nature nor from fate." The whole epistle from 
which the above extract is made indicates a noble and feeling 
heart 

It appears that the Roman laws respecting suicide were of 
a fiscal nature. They viewed the act not as a crime ab- 
stractedly, but considered how fiir the circumstance aficcted 
the state or treasury. In some portion of the Roman empire 
the magistrate had the power of granting or refusing per- 
mission to commit suicide. If the decision was given 
against the applicant, and he persisted in sacrificing his life, 
disgrace and ignominy were heaped upon his body, and 
it was buried in the most humiliating manner. The tenour 
of the law relating to suicide laid down in ** Justinian's 
Digests" is to the following efiect: — " Those who, being 
actually accused, or who being caught in any crime, and 
dreading a prosecution, made way with themselves, were 
to have their efiects confiscated. But this confiscation was 
no punishment of suicide, as a crime in itself^ being then 
only to take place when the crime committed incurred 
the confiscation of property, and when the person accused 
of it would have been found guilty. For which reason 
the heirs-at-law were permitted (if they thought proper) 
to try the cause as though the accused person, who had 
put a period to his life, had been still living; and if his 
innocence could be proved, they Were still entitled to his 
effects. But if any one killed himself, either through weari- 
ness of life, or an impatience under pain or ill health, for a 
load of private debt, or for any other reason not affecting the 
state or public treasury, the property of the deceased flowed 
in its natural channel. In the case of an attempted but in- 
complete suicide, where a man was under no accusation, a 
distinction was made as to the causes impelling to it, before 



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26 ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 

the question as to its punishment was to be determined. If 
it proceeded not from weariness of life^ or an impatience under 
the pressure of some calamity^ the attempter was to suffer the 
same punishment as if he had effected his purpose ; and for 
this reason, because he who without reason spared not his 
own life, would not be likely to spare another man's."* 

If a prisoner committed suicide, the jailor authorized to 
protect him was punished very severely. The Roman law 
made a distinction between soldiers and civilians. If a 
soldier attempted to take away his life, and it could not be 
proved that he was suffering at the time from great griei^ 
misfortune, madness, &c., it was deemed a capital offence, 
and death was the punishment. And even in cases where 
it was established that the act was the result of mental per- 
turbation, he was dismissed from the service with ignominy 
and disgrace. 

During the pure ages of the Roman Republic, when reli- 
gion was reverenced, when the gods were looked up to with 
respect as the disposers of all events, suicide was but little 
known. But when the philosophy of Greece was introduced 
into the Roman Empire, and the manners of the people be- 
came corrupted and degenerated, the crime increased to an 
alarming extent This indifference to life was also augmented 
by the spread of stoical and epicurean principles. The stoic 
was taught to believe his life his own ; that he was the sole 
arbiter of his existence ; and that he could live or die as he 
pleased. The same principles were inculcated by the epi- 
curean philosophy. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that 
suicide should be of common occurrence, when such de- 
grading principles had taken possession of the minds of the 
people ? 

By the law of Thebes, the person who committed suicide 
was deprived of his frineral rites, and his name and memoiy 
were branded with infamy. The Athenian law was equally 

* Corpus Juris Civilis, lib. xlviii. tit. xxi. parag. 3. 



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ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 27 

severe : the hand of the self-murderer was cut off, and buried 
apart from his body, as having been an enemy and traitor to 
it The Greeks considered suicide as a most heinous crime. 
The bodies of suicides, according to the Grecian custom, were 
not burned to ashes, but were immediately buried. They 
considered it a pollution of the holy element of fire to con- 
sume in it the carcases of those who had been guilty of self- 
murder. Suicides were classed ** with the pu blic or private 
enemy ; with the tra itor, and conspirator against his country ; 
with the tyrant^ the sacrilegious wretch, and such grievous 
offenders whose punishment was impalement alive on a 
cr o ss ." * 

^ Ihese Taws, however, fell into disuse, as appears evident 
from the circumstance of there being so many cases of suicide 
which escaped this treatment 

In the island of Ceos the magistrates had the power of 
deciding whether a person had sufficient reasons for killing 
himself A poison was kept for that purpose, which was 
given to the applicant who made out his case before the 
magistracy. 

The same custom was followed among the Massilians, the 
ancient inhabitants of Marseilles. A preparation of hemlock 
was kept in readiness, and the senate, on hearing the merits 
of the case, had the power to decide whether the applicant had 
good and substantial reasons for committing suicide. There 
was, no doubt, much good effected by this regulation, as it 
clearly acknowledged the principle that the power of a man 
over his own life rested not in himself, but in the voice of the 
magistrate, who alone was to determine how his life or death 
might affect the state. 

Libanius, of Antioch, who flourished towards the end of the 
fourth century, has very happily ridiculed the practice to 
which we have alluded. In some imaginary pleadings before 

* Vide Potter's Antiquities, 



1/ 



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28 ANCIENT LAWS ETC. BE8PECTINO SUICIDE. 

the senate, he advocates the cause of a man who wishes to 
swallow the hemlock draught, that he may be freed from the 
garrulity of a loquacious wife. ** Truly," says he, " if our 
legislator had not been addicted too much to law mating, I 
should have been under no necessity of proving before you 
the expediency of my departure, but a rope and the first tree 
would have given me peace and quiet. But since he, deter- 
mining we should be slaves, has deprived us even of the liberty 
of dying when we please, and has enchained us with decrees 
on this business, I imprecate the author and obey his mandates, 
in thus laying my complaints and my request before you." 
He then, with considerable eloquence and humour, advocates 
the cause of the ^^ envious man," who wishes to taste the 
^^ suicidal draught" because his neighbour's wealth had in- 
creased beyond his own. ** Let the wretch," he says, ** recite 
his calamities, let the senate bestow the antidote, and let grief 
be dissolved in death." 

Libanius then pleads in behalf of Timon, the man hater, 
who begs permission to dispatch himself because he was 
bound by profession to hate all mankind, but he could not help 
loving Alcibiades. 

It is a singular circumstance connected with the subject of 
suicide, that authors who have written in its defence should 
quote the cases referred to in this chapter in justification of 
their views. They have not taken into consideration the 
peculiar customs, habits, and religion of the people, which of 
course must have greatly influenced their actions. How ab- 
surd would it be for us to take the authority of antiquity as 
an infallible rule of conduct The Massagetes considered 
those unhappy who died a natural death, and therefore eat 
their dearest fiiends when they grew old. The Libarenians 
broke their necks down a precipice. The Bactrians were 
thrown alive to the dogs. The Scythians buried the dearest 
friends of the deceased with them alive, or killed them on the 
funeral pile. The Roman people, when sunk in vice and 



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ANCIENT LAWS ETC. RESPECTING SUICIDE. 29 

licentiousness, considered it a mark of courage and honour to 
fall by tlieir own hands, and suicide was a common occurrence 
with them. 

** In the beginning of the spring," says Malt. Brun, " a 
shocking ceremony takes place at Cola Bhairava, in the 
mountains between the rivers Taptae and Nerbuddah. It is 
the practice of some persons of the lowest tribes in Berar to 
make vows of suicide, in return for answers which their 
prayers are believed to have received from their idols. This 
is the place where such vows are performed in the beginning 
of spring, when eight or ten victims generally throw them- 
selves from a precipice. The ceremony gives rise to an 
annual fair, and some trade."* 

No just distinction can be drawn between these customs. 
The Indian widow, in obedience to the religion of her coun- 
try, ascends the frineral pile of her husband, and is burnt to 
death. Thousands annually sacrifice their lives by throwing 
themselves under the wheels of their idol Juggernaut. Strong 
feelings of religion impel them to this ; they become ex- 
cluded from society, they lose caste, and are subjected to all 
kinds of persecution if they do not bow to the customs of the 
country. What legitimate argument can be deduced from 
these facts in favour of suicide ? And yet these cases are 
considered to constitute a justification of the stoical dogma, 
that we have a right when we please to put an end to our 
own existence. Desperate indeed must be the circumstances 
of those who are compelled to found their reasoning on so 
flimsy a basis. 

* Universal Geography, vol. iii. p. 155. 



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30 



CHAPTER IL 



WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE. 



Opinions of Hume — Effect of his writings — Case of suicide caused by — The 
doctrines of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Montaigne examined — Origin 
of Dr. Donne's celebrated work — Madame de Stael's recantation — 
Robert of Normandy, Gibbon, Sir T. More, and Robeck's opinions 
considered. 

It will be foreign to my purpose to enter elaborately into an 
examination of the opinions of those who have thought proper 
to justify the commission of suicide. The arguments which 
have been advanced by Hume, Donne, Rousseau, Madame 
de Stael, Montesquieu, Montaigne, Gibbon, Voltaire, and 
Robeck, are founded on such gross and apparent fallacies, 
that they carry with them their own refiitation. 

Hume, whose pen was always ready to support opinions at 
variance with the precepts of the Christian religion, wrote an 
essay on the subject of suicide. He has endeavoured to shew 
that self-murder is consistent with our duty to God, our 
neighbour, and ourselves. Referring to the first of these 
three heads, he says — " As, on the one hand, the elements and 
other inanimate parts of creation carry on their action without 
regard to the particular interests and situation of men, so men 
are entrusted to their own judgment and discretion in the 
various shades of matter, and may employ every faculty with 
which they are endowed in order to provide for their ease, 
happiness, or preservation." 



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WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE. 31 

If an action be clearly shewn to be an infringement of the 
laws of God, it certainly cannot be one which he has left us 
to exercise at discretion. All the laws of religion and morality 
are so many abridgments of man's liberty, in the exercise of 
his judgment and discretion for his own happiness. Hume 
then proceeds to examine whether suicide be a breach of duty 
to our neighbour and society. He observes — ** A man who 
retires from life does no harm to society, — ^he only ceases to ^ 
do good ; which, if it be an injury, is of the lowest kind." The 
man who sacrifices his own life does a great injury to society. 
There are very few men in the world who have no relations 
or connexions, and he entails upon these the opprobrium that 
society attaches to the crime of suicide. Independently of 
this, his example acts injuriously on the minds of others, who 
may not have such good reasons for suicide as he has. " I 
believe," continues Hume, ** that no man ever threw away life 
while it was worth keeping. For such is our natural horror 
of death, that small motives will never be able to reconcile us /, 
to it" He might as well have stated that such is our horror of 
poverty that no man ever threw away riches which were worth 
keeping. The fallacy consists in drawing a conclusion from a 
mind supposed in its right state, in which every faculty, pro- 
pensity, and aversion has its due proportion of strength ; and 
in which the natural horror of death will secure a man from 
throwing away a life which is worth keeping : and this con- 
clusion is applied to a depraved state of mind, in which it can 
by no means hold. 

The same author asserts, " That it would be no crime in me 
to divert the Nile or Danube from its course, if I could ; 
where, then, is the crime of turning a few ounces of blood out 
of its natural channel ?" The argument is too puerile to merit 
refutation. He must first establish that no injury would 
accrue from diverting the course of the Nile and Danube, 
before any argument can be deduced from it which is worth 
one moment's consideration. 

It has been asserted, and remains uncontradicted, that Mr. 



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32 WBITERS IN DEFENCE OP SUICIDE. 

Hume lent his ** Essay on Suicide" to a friend, who on re- 
turning it told him it was a most excellent performance, and 
pleased him better than anything he had read for a long 
time* In order to give Hume a practical exhibition of the 
effects of his defence of suicide, his friend shot himself the 
day after returning him his Essay. 

li^ in any one instance, suicide might admit of something 
like an apol<^, it would have been in this — ^if the detestable 
author of this abominable treatise had, on receiving the me- 
lancholy intelligence, committed it to the flames, and ter- 
minated his own pernicious existence by a cord. But the 
cold-blooded infidel was too cowardly to execute summaiy 
justice on himsel£ With a truly diabolical spirit, his delight 
was to scatter firebrands among the people, and say, *^ Am I 
not in sport ?" 

Mr. Hume is the hero of modem infidels, because he is the 
only one among them whose life was not disgraced by the 
grossest of vices ; for this, his selfish and avaricious spirit 
affords, perhaps, the true reason. It is well known that Hume, 
in more than one instance, sacrificed his principles (if he had 
any) to views of emolument at the suggestion of the book- 
sellers. It has been said that he was scarcely guilty of a 
good or benevolent action. His treatment of Rousseau was 
unfeeling in the extreme; and an intimate friend of the 
essayist a£Srms, that '^ his heart was as hard and cold as 
marble." 

Montesquieu's aiguments in favour of suicide appear to 
border very closely on those advanced by Hume. They 
will be found in a letter vmtten in the character of a Persian 
resident in Europe. 

Rousseau* in his " Nouvelle Heloi'se" observes, " The more 
I reflect upon it (suicide), the more I find that the question 

* It is generally believed that Rousseau killed himself by taking arsenic ; 
but this has been denied. Judging from the character and disposition of the 
man, we should feel disposed to credit the statement respecting his voluntary 
death. Rousseau always maintained that the following stanza of Tasso had 



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WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUIOIDB. 33 

reduces itself to tliis fundamental proposition : — To seek one's 
own goody and avoid one's own harm in that which hurts not 
another, is the law of nature." Rousseau must first clearly 
establish that what he terms ^^ seeking one's own good" will 
not be productive of injury to others. According to the 
notion of what the majority of men conceive to be their 
good, much evil would result firom allowing mankind to act 
under the influence of their own feelings and judgment. 
What one man considers ^^ good," another considers evil ; 
and what often appears to be very beneficial to ourselves, if 
examined fairly, will be found to be the very reverse. 

Montaigne's arguments are borrowed from ancient writer^ v 
in defence of suicide. He assumes at the commencement 
that suicide is not an evil He says, that pain, and the fear 
of suffering a worse death, is an excusable incitement to 
suicide. The whole that he has advanced b but a string of i 
sophistries. / 

Dr. Donne has entered more fully into the defence of suicide 
than any other writer. The whole of his work appears to be 
written for the purpose of demonstrating that it is praiseworthy 
to shew a contempt of life in the discharge of our duty, and 
in the execution of noble and beneficent enterprises. 

Dr. Donne was probably drawn to the contemplation of 
this subject by his own sufferings. While he was secretary to 

a direct application to him, and accurately described his feelings and position 
in the world — 

** Still, still 'tis mine with grief and shame to rove, 
A dire example of disastrous love ; 
While keen remorse for ever breaks my rest, 
And raging furies haunt my conscious breast. 
The lonely shades with terror must I view. 
The shades shall every dreadful thought renew ; 
The rising sun shall equal horrors yield. 
The sun that first the dire event revealed ; 
Still must I view myself with hateful eye, 
And seek, though vainly, from myself to fly." 
D 



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34 WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE. 

Lord Chancellor Egerton, he married a young lady of rank 
superior to his own, which gave ofience to his patron, and he 
was consequently dismissed from oflSce. He suffered extreme 
poverty with his wife and children ; and in a letter, in which 
he adverts to the illness of a daughter whom he tenderly 
loved, he says that he dares not expect relief, even from 
.death, as he cannot afford the expense of a ftmeral. He 
afterwards took orders, and was promoted to the deanery of 
St Paul's. In the early part of his life, and probably during 
the period of his sufferings, he wrote his book, entitled, 
** BiaSavaTo;, A Declaration of that paradox or thesis^ that 
self-homicide is not so naturally sin that it may never be other- 
toiseJ" He did not publish it He desired it to be remembered, 
that it was written by Jack Donne, not by Dr. Donne ; and it 
was published many years after his death, by his son, a dissi- 
pated young man, tempted by his necessities to forget his 
father's prohibition. 

Madame de Stael attempted to justify suicide in her work 
on the passions, but she, greatly to her honour, published her 
celebrated ** Reflections on Suicide," which was written as a 
recantation of some opinions on the subject incidentally ex- 
pressed in the work alluded to. She expresses the change in 
her sentiments on this subject in the following curious man- 
ner : — " J'ai I'acte du suicide, dans mon ouvrage sur I'influence 
des passions, et je me suis repentie depuis de cette parole 
inconsider^e. J'etois alors dans tout I'orgueil et la vivacit6 de 
la premiere jeunesse ; mais a quoi servirait-il de vivre, si ce 
n'etait dans I'espoir de s'ameliorer." 

Madame de Stael has treated the subject with considerable 
ingenuity and ability, and with a great deal of eloquence, 
but she has hardly enforced sufficiently the arguments against 
this crime which may be deduced from the use of that por- 
tion of existence we pass upon earth. We are wise and good 
just in proportion as we consider and treat life and all its in- 
cidents as moral means to a great end. Upon every moment 



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WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE. 35 

of time an eternity is dependent ; and whenever we sacrifice a 
moment, we throw away an instrument by which we might 
have created an eternity of happiness. 

All mankind are not placed upon an equality. Some ex- 
perience pleasure, others pain, privation or sufiering ; the tools 
with which we are to work may be inconvenient or burthen- 
some, or light and pleasant ; but they must be the most useful 
and efiicacious, or they would not be put into our hands ; at 
any rate, they are all we have. We cannot fix too deeply on 
our minds the truth that life is not an absolute, but a relative 
existence, as in its relation to the eternity with which it is 
connected, consists all its value and importance. 

Robert of Normandy^ sumamed the Devil, sacrificed his 
own life, and before doing so he wrote a work in defence of 
suicide, in which he argued that there was no law that forbids 
a person to deprive himself of life ; that the love of life is to 
be subservient to that of happiness ; that our body is a mean 
and contemptible machine, the preservation of which we 
ought not so highly to value ; if the human soul be mortal, 
it receives but a slight injury, but if immortal, the greatest 
advantage ; a benefit ceases to be one when it becomes trou- 
blesome, and then surely a man ought to be allowed to resign 
it; a voluntary death is often the only method of avoiding the 
greatest crime ; and finally, that suicide is justified by the 
example of most nations in the world. Such is the substance 
of the arguments in favour of suicide urged by Robert of 
Normandy, and worthy of his celebrated namesake. 

Gibbon and Sir Thomas More are cited as champions in 
favour of suicide ; but there is nothing which these authors 
have advanced that merits a separate consideration. 



d2 

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36 



CHAPTER III. 



SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN.— IT IS NOT 
AN ACT OF COURAGE. 

The sin of suicide — The notions of Paley on the subject— Voltaire's opinion — 
Is suicide self-murder? — Is it forbidden in Scripture? — Shakspeare's 
views on the subject — The alliance between suicide ana muraer — nas a 
man a n^bl U) Utrifice his own life? — Everything held upon trust — 
Suicide a sin against ourselves and neighbour — It is not an act of cour- 
age — Opinion of Q. Curtius on the subject— Buonaparte's denunciation 
of suicide — Dryden's description of the suicide in another world. 

Among the black catalogue of human offences, there is not, 
indeed, any that more powerfully affects the mind, that more 
outrages all the feelings of the heart, than the crime of sui- 
cide. Our laws have branded it with infamy, and the industry 
which is exerted by surviving relatives to conceal its perpe- 
tration evinces that the shame which is attached to it is of 
that foul and contagious character, that even the innocent 
consider themselves infected by its malignity. 

Much discussion has taken place as to whether self-murder 
is expressly forbidden in the Old or New Testament* 

* Duverger de Ha urane, abbot of St. C yran, regarded as the fo under of 
Port Pr<;>y^|^ Tgr^tp^ t^ th^ year 10U0, a ireaiise on suicide, whicli has, says 
Voltaire, become one of the scarcest books in Europe. 

He says the decalogue forbids us to kill. In this precept, self-murder 
seems no less to be comprised than murder of our neighbour. But if ^er e 
are cases in inhinh - it ii nllownhlft- to kin nnr na^grht^nr^ thy r e likewise ar e 
cases in which it is allowable to kill ourselves. We must not make a n 
aftppipf iipnn ^^^r Uvt,^ i^ptn ^fp have COnsulted r^asnn. THp puMiranthnrhy^ 



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SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AMD MAS. 37 

Paley^ who is a high authority on all questions connected 
with moral philosophy, denies that it is. He considers that 
the article in the decalogue so often brought forward, ** Thou 
shalt do no murder,'' is inconclusive. ** I acknowledge (he 
observes) that there is to be found neither any express deter- 
mination of the question, nor suflScient evidence to prove that 
the case of suicide was in the contemplation of the law which 
prohibits murder. Any inference, therefore, which we deduce 
from Scripture, can be sustained only by construction and 
implication.'^ 

To maintain that God has not forbidden us to destroy the | 
work of his hands, because self-murder is not particularly I 
specified, is to leave us at liberty to commit many other 
offences which are not named among the prohibitions, but 
which are included under general heads. When God said to 
Nogh^^^^^ Whoso shedde th man's blood, by man shall his blood 
b e shed, for in the ima ge of God made he man,^ it is evi - 
dent that, whatever meaning we may attach to the last word s, 
in wyifl|, ^Yer sense man is said to be made in th<^ imngft^f 
God, the reason of the prohibition holds as str pn g mfain st 
s elf-murder gM fiep^?"fit any other kind of mnrdei^ jf T iiii| , 
commanded not to shed the blood^of another man becauseJie 
is made iiTthe image of God, I am .noL-ju^ified in sheddiog 
my own blood, as I stand in the sa me relat ion to th^ Pei^ l 
a ^my fe fl ow-me n. ^BuFtEereTslTparticular reason why sui- 
cide is not any where expressly forbidden by name; that is, 
that whatever sins and offences God, as a lawgiver, prohibits, 
he does so with a penalty ; he affixes such a punishment to 

which holds the place of God, may dispose of our lives. The reason of man 
may likewise hold the place of the reason of God, — it is a ray of the eternal 
light. 

Voltaire, disposed as he was to advocate the right of committing suicide 
whenever a man considered death preferable to a dishonourable life, had 
suflBcient sagacity to see through the ^larinpr ^so phistry of St^Cyian'sjeason in^ 
o n this point. The same author says, " A ma n may kill himself for the go od 
ofTiis^rInce7ior that Of hlS d6Uniry, 6t 16f ttel 61 hisTelatlqns!" 



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/ 



38 _^ SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND HAN. 

such a crime, and he who transgresses is to undei^o the deter- 
mmed punishment in this world or in the next. Neither 
God nor the magistrate can prohibit self-murder with any 
penalty that can affect the criminal himself; because of his 
very crime, he escapes all temporal punishment in person — 
he has anticipated the operation of the law. In fact, he has, 
in his own person, acted the part of the criminal, judge, jury, 
and executioner ; he is dead before the law can take any cog- 
nizance of his offence. No law can be enacted to any pur- 
pose without a penalty; where, therefore, there can be no 
penalty, there can be no law. Self-mimler prevents all penalty, 
and therefore wants no particular prohibition ; it must there- 
fore be included under general commands, and forbidden 
as a siUy which it is only in the power of God to take cog- 
nizance of, in another world. 

Again, doubtlessly the inspired writer considered suicide of 
such an atrocious nature that the warnings of conscience 
were sufficient to prevent its frequency, and because the 
voice of nature instinctively cries out against it 

That the act of suicide must be most offensive in the sight 
of God is evident, since it is that which most directly violates 
those laws by which his providence has formed, and still 
directs, the universe. If any one principle in man is instinctive 
and implanted in him by the hand of nature, it is that of self 
preservation. Different religions and different codes have 
marked out particular duties, and proscribed particular crimes ; 
in this, every religion unites, every society concurs, and every 
individual acknowledges within his own bosom the sacred 
command. If, therefore, to disobey the ordinances of God 
must be sinful in his sight, if ever the ordinances of men are 
to be respected, what must be the guilt of that person who 
violates the first law of nature, who disregards the principle 
that holds human society together, that fits us for every duty, 
and prompts us in the performance of them ! 

But it is not merely against the ordinance of his Creator that 



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SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN. 39 

the self-murderer offends,* he is guilty of a breach of duty to 
his neighbour. He plants a dagger not merely in his own 
breast, but in that of his dearest, his tenderest connexions, j 
He wantonly sports with the pangs of sensibility, and covers | 
with the blush of shame the cheek of innocence. With a - ^ 
degree of ingratitude which excites our abhorrence, he clouds 
with sorrow the future existence of those by whom he was 
most tenderly beloved, and affixes a mark of ignominy on his 
unfortunate descendants. He disobeys the first of social laws, 
that order by which God appropriated his labours to the 
welfare of society, and, because he fancies he can no longer 
exist with comfort to himself, disregards all the duties which 
he owes to others. 

The alliance between suicide and the murder of others is a 
closer one than is generally supposed. How many instances 
are recorded in which suicide and homicide have been con- 
joined ! He who will not scruple to take away his own life, 
will not require much reasoning to impel him to sacrifice 
another's. We refer to the cases of Mithridates, king of Pontus, 
and Nicocles, as illustrative of this position. Many modem 
instances are recorded of the same'character. 

It was maintained by Marcus Aurelius, that there was no 
more of evil in parting fi:om life than in going out of a smoky 
chamber ; and Rousseau asks, " Why should we be permitted 
to cut off a leg, if we may not equally take away life ? has not 
the will of God given us both ?" Madame de Stael very pro- 
perly observes that the following passage in Scripture replies 
to this sophism — ** If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; if thine 
eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it fi:om thee." Temp- 

* It is evident that the great dramatist considered that suicide was 
opposed to the divine will. 

" Against self-slaughter 
* There is a prohibition so divine, 

That cravens my weak hand." .• 

Again, he says — ( 

" Or that the Everlastingfhad not fixed \ 

His canon 'gainst self-slaughter l" | 



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40 SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN. 

tation is evidently referred to in the above passage, but it may 
consistently be used in refutation of Rousseau's illc^cal aigu- 
ment Although a man may use any means placed in his 
power for the removal of physical evils, he is distinctly prohi- 
bited from destroying his existence. 

The interrc^atory argument, if it can be so denominated, 
which is so often used in justification of suicide — *^ Cannot a 
man do what he likes with his own ?" — ^is based upon an absurd 
and gross fallacy. Man, during his residence on this earth, 
is but a trustee; his wealth, his talents, his time, and his 
very life, are but trust property. He can call nothing truly his 
own ; he is held accountable for the most apparently trivial 
action he performs. Life is given tcthim for noble purposes ; 
it is an emanation from the Deity himself; and no circum- 
stances' would justify us in asserting that our very existence 
is placed at our own disposal How truly has the noble poet 
observed, when alluding to the tenure upon which we hold 
everything during this life — 

'* Can despots compass aught tliat hails their sway. 
Or call one solid span of earth their own, 
Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone V* 

This life is one of privation. We are bom to misery ; we 
are led to expect disappointment at every step we take; 
blighted expectations, ruined hopes, pain, mental and bodily, 
constitute a part and parcel of our very existence. No man 
was more overwhelmed with any species of misfortune than 
Job ; he was emphatically styled " the man of grief f and 
when, prostrated to the earth by the most poignant misery, 
his wife exhorted him to quit life, — to " curse God, and die," — 
he replied, "What, shall I receive good from the hand of God, 
and not evil ?" 

No suffering, however acute, could for one moment justify 
the commission of self-murder. " The concluding scene in 
the life of Jesus Christ," says Madame de Stael, with a fervid 
eloquence which does her immortal honour, " seems peculiarly 



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SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN. 41 

intended to confute those who contend for the right of de- 
stroying life to escape misfortune. The dread of suffering 
seized him who had willingly devoted himself to death 
for the good of mankind. He prayed a long time to his 
Father in the Mount of Olives, and his cpuntenance was 
shaded by the anguish of death. * My Father,' he cried, ^ if 
it be possible, let this cup pass from me.' Thrice with tears 
was this prayer repeated. All the sorrows of our nature had 
passed through his divine mind ; like us, he feared the violence 
of men ; like us, perhaps, regretted those whom he cherished 
and loved, his mother and his disciples ; like us, he loved this 
earth, and the celestial pleasures resulting from active bene- 
volence, for which he incessantly thanked his Father. But, 
not able to avert the destined chalice, he cried, ^ Oh, my 
Father, let thy will be done,' and resigned himself into the 
hands of his enemies. What more can be sought for in the 
gospel respecting resignation to grief, and the duty of sup- 
porting it with fortitude and patience." Poets and orators 
have entered into a chivalrous rivalry to celebrate the character 
of the " bold man struggling with the storms of fate." That 
adversity refines and ennobles our nature there cannot be a 
doubt. The most beautiful features of the human mind are 
developed in suffering; the ordeal through which we pass, 
however repugnant and abhorrent it may be to our feelings, 
produces a moral regeneration in the character. We come 
out of the " fiery fiimace," like gold and silver, deprived of 
much of our dross ; and life, youthful and innocent life, i^ain 
dawns upon us and gladdens our hearts. 

Suicide is an injury to our neighbour and to society. As 
long as life lasts, — ^no matter what amount of misery a person 
may suffer, — he has it in his power to contribute to the happi- 
ness of others. By mitigating the distresses of others, his own 
will be subdued. Let a man writhing under the torture of 
the gout be brought into contact with a person suffering from 
the intense agony of tic doloureux, and he will have a prac- 



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OF-^HE 

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42 SUICIDE NOT AN ACT OF COURAGE. 

tical iUustration of the fact^ that there are others in the world 
worse off than himself. 

Suicide has been defended as an act of courage. Courage^ 
I forsooth 1 If ever there is an act of cowardice, it is that exhi- 
bited by the person who, to escape from the disappointments 
and vexations of the world, wantonly puts an end to his 
existence. The man of courage will defy the opinions and 
scorns of the world, when he knows himself to be in the right ; 
will be above sinking under the petty misfortunes that assail 
him ; will make circumstances bow to him ; will court diffi- 
culties and dangers, in order to shew that he is able to master 
them. 

It was a noble sentiment which Q. Curtius put into the 
mouth of Darius, after every ray of hope had abandoned 
him : — " I will wait," cried the king, addressing his attendants, 
" the issue of my fate. You wonder, perhaps, that I do not 
terminate my own life ; but I choose rather to die by another's 
crime than by my own." The sentiments of Cleomenes, 
king of Sparta, expressed when his fortunes appeared most 
desperate, are equally noble and magnanimous. Being much 
urged by a friend to dispatch himself, he replied — **By 
seeking this easy and ready kind of death, you think to appear 
brave and courageous ; but better men than you and I have 
been oppressed by fortune, and borne down by multitudes. 
He that sinks under toil, or yields to affliction, or is overcome 
by the opinions and reproaches of men, gives way, in fact, to 
his own effeminacy and cowardice. A voluntary death is 
never to be chosen as a relief from action, but as exemplary 
in itself, it being base to live or die only for ourselves. The 
death to which you now invite us is only proposed as a release 
from present misery, but conveys with it no signs of bravery 
or prospects of advantage." 

Euripides put the following words in the mouth of Hercules : 
" I have considered, and, though oppressed with misfortunes, I 
have determined thus : Let no one depart out of life through 



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SUICIDE NOT AN ACT OF COURAGE. 43 

fear of what may happen to him ; for he who is not able to re- 
sist evils will fly, like a coward, from the darts of the enemy." ^ 

When Buonaparte was told of the prevalent opinion, that he 
ought not to have survived his political downfall, he calmly 
replied — "No, no; I have not enough of the Roman in me 
to destroy myself." After reasoning, with considerable in- 
genuity, on the subject of suicide, he concluded by giving 
expression to this decided opinion : — " Suicide is a crime the 
most revolting to my feelings ; nor does any reason present 
itself to my understanding by which it can be justified. It 
certainly originates in that species of fear which we denomi- 
nate cowardice, (poltronnerie,) For what claim can that man 
have to courage who trembles at the frowns of fortune ? True 
heroism consists in becoming superior to the ills of life, in 
whatever shape they may challenge him to the combat." He 
might have added — " Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior 
ito." On another occasion, when talking on the subject of 
suicide, Buonaparte observed, " If Marius had slain himself 
in the marshes of Mintumae, he never would have stood the 
seventh time for consul." After having been some time at St. 
Helena, he one day spoke ftirther on the subject of suicide. 
He observed : — " With respect to the English language, I have 
been very diligent I now read your newspapers with ease ; 
and must own that they aflFord me no inconsiderable amuse- 
ment. They are occasionally inconsistent, and sometimes abu- 
sive. In one paper I am called a Lear ; in another, a tyrant ; in a 
third, a monster ; and in one of them — which I really did not 
expect — I am described as a coward. But it turned out, after 
all, that the writer did not accuse me of avoiding danger in 
the field of battle, or flying from an enemy, or fearing to look 
at the menaces of fate and fortune. It did not charge me 
with wanting presence of mind in the hurry of battle, and in 
the suspense of conflicting armies ; no such thing. I wanted 
courage, it seems, because I did not coolly take a dose of 
poison, or throw myself into the sea, or blow out my brains. 



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44 SUICIDE NOT AN ACT OF COURAGE. 

The editor most certainly misunderstands me; I have, at 
least, too much courage for that^* 

We think it has decidedly been established in the preceding 
observations that suicide is a crime clearly prohibited in the 
Bible; that it is, in every sense of the term, self-murder; 
and that our duty to our Creator, to ourselves, and to society, 
loudly calls upon us to denounce it, and hold it up to the 
scorn and reprobation of mankind. Hovir terrifically has 
Dryden, in his Fables, portrayed the condition of the un- 
fortunate suicide in another virorld: — 

" The slayer of himself, too, saw I there : 
The gore, congealed, was clotted in bis hair. 
With eyes half closed, and mouth wide ope, he lay, 
And grim as when he breathed his sullen soul away." 

• Warder's " Letters from the Northumberland/' 



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45 



CHAPTER IV. 



ON THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES IN 
INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 

Moral causes of disease — Neglect of psychological medicine — Mental philo- 
sophy a branch of medical study — Moral causes of suicide — ^Tables of 
Falret,&c. — Influence of remorse — Simon Brown, Charles IX. of France — 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew — ^Terrible death of Cardinal Beaufort, from 

remorse — The Chevalier de S . Influence of disappointed love — 

Suicide from love — ^Two singular cases — Effects of jealousy — Othello — 
Suicide from this passion — The French opera dancer — Suicide frt>m 
wounded vanity — False pride — ^The remarkable case of Villeneuve, as 
related by Buonaparte — Buonaparte's attempt at suicide — Ambition — 
Despair, cases of suicide from — The Abb^ de Ranc^ — Suicide from blind 
impulse — Cases— Mathews, the comedian — Opinion of Esquirol on the 
subject — Ennui, birth of— Common cause of suicide in France — Effiect 
of speculating in stocks — Defective education — Diffusion of knowledge — 
" Socialism" a cause of self-destruction — Suicide common in Germany — 
Werter — Goethe's attempt at suicide — Influence of his writings on Hack- 
man — Suicide from reading Tom Paine's " Age of Reason" — Suicide to 
avoid punishment — Most remarkable illustrations — Political excitement — 
Nervous irritation — Love of notoriety — Hereditary disposition — Is death 
painful? fully considered, with cases — Influence of irreligion. 

In our voyage through life, the passions are said to be the 
gales that swell the canvass of the mental bark ; they obstruct 
or accelerate its course, and render the passage favourable or 
full of danger, in proportion as they blow steadily from a 
proper point, or are adverse or tempestuous. Like the wind 
itself, the passions are engines of mighty power and of high 
importance. Without them we cannot proceed, and with them 



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46 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

we may be shipwrecked and lost. Curbed in and regulated, 
they constitute the source of our most elevated happiness ; but 
when not subdued, they drive the vessel on the rocks and 
quicksands of life, and ruin us. 

'' How few beneath auspicious planets born 

With swelling sails make good the promis'd port. 
With all their wishes freighted/' 

— 7 You NO. 



" In this country," Dr. J. Johnson justly observes, " where 
man's relations with the world around him are multiplied be- 
yond all example in any other country, in consequence of the 
intensity of interest attached to politics, religion, amusement, 
literature, and the arts ; where the temporal concerns of an 
immense proportion of the population are in a perpetual 
state of vacillation; where spiritual affairs excite in the 
minds of many great anxiety ; and where speculative risks 
are daily involving in difficulties all classes of society, — the 
operation of physical causes in the production of disease 
dwindles into complete insignificance when compared with 
that of anxiety and perturbation of mind." 

^* Mens conscia recti in corpore sano," is Horace's well- 
known description of the happy man. Lucretius appears to 
have formed a correct estimate of the most important bodily 
and mental conditions on which our happiness depends : — 

" O wretched mortals ! race pen'erse and blind ! 
Through what dread, dark, what perilous pursuits 
Pass ye this round of being ! Know ye not, 
Of all ye toil for. Nature nothing asks. 
But for the body fireedom from disease, 
And sweet unanxious quiet for the mind ?" 

Like human beings, the sciences are closely connected with, 
and are mutually dependent upon, one another. The link in 
the chain may not be apparent, but it has a real and palpable 
existence. Medical and moral science are more nearly allied 
than we should, a priori^ conclude. We speak of the science 
of medicine, not the practice of it ; for, like judgment and wit, 
or, as the author of the School for Scandal ironically observes. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 47 

like man and toife, how seldom are they seen in happy union. 
Garth feelingly alludes to this unnatural divorce : — 

" The healing art now, sick'ning, hangs its head. 
And, once a science, has become a trade," 

Psychological medicine has been sadly neglected. We recoil 
from the study of mental philosophy as if we were encroaching 
bn"Tio1y grvQu ndr "S o greafls'the prejudice against this branch 
of science, that it bias been observed, that to recommend a man 
to study metaphysics was a delicate mode of suggesting the 
propriety of confining him in a lunatic asylum I 

In order to become a useful physician, it is necessary to be- 
come a good metaphysician ; so says a competent authority. 
It was not, however, Dr. Cullen's intention to recommend that 
species of philosophy which confounds the mind without en- • 
lightening it, and which, like an iffnisfatuus, dsLZzlcs only to lead 
us from the truth. To the medical man we can conceive no pre- 
liminary study more productive of advantage than that which 
tends to call into exercise the latent principle of thought, and 
to accustom the mind to close, rigid, and accurate observation. 
The science of mind, when properly investigated, teaches us 
the laws of our mental frame, and shews us the origin of our 
various modes and habits of thought and feeling — how they 
operate upon one another, and how they arc cultivated and 
repressed ; it disciplines us in the art of induction, and guards 
us against the many sources of fallacy in the practice of 
making inferences ; it gives precision and accuracy to our in- 
vestigations, by instructing us in the nicer discriminations of 
truth and falsehood. 

The value of mental philosophy as a branch of education will 
be properly appreciated when we consider that this ennobling 
principle was given to us for the purpose of directing and con- 
trolling our powers and animal propensities, and bringing them 
into that subjection whereby they become beneficial to the 
individual and to the world at large, enabling him to exchange 
with others those results which the power of his own and the 



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48 TIfE INFLUF.NCE OF CFRTAIN MFNTAL STATES 

gigantic efforts of other minds have developed ; maintaining 
and perpetuating the most dignified and exalted state of hap* 
piness, the attribute of social life ; unfolding not only treasures 
which the concentrated powers of individuals are enabled to 
discover, but developing those more quiet and unobtrusive 
characteristics of virtuous life, those social affections, which 
are alone calculated to make our present state of being happy. 
Independently of the utility of the study, what a world of 
delight is open to the mind of that man who has devoted 
some portion of his time to the investigation of his mental 
organization ! In him we may truly behold — 

*' Nature, gentle, kind, 
By culture tamed, by liberty refreshed. 
And all the radiant fruits of truth matured. '^ 

When we take into consideration the tremendous influence 
which the different mental emotions have over the bodily 
fiinctions, when we perceive that violent excitement of mind 
will not only give rise to serious functional disorder, but actual 
organic disease, leading to the commission of suicide, how 
necessary does it appear that he to whose care is entrusted 
the lives of his fellow-creatiu^s, should have made this depart- 
ment of philosophy a matter of serious consideration ! It is no 
logical argument against the study of mental science, to urge 
that we are in total ignorance of the nature or constitution of 
the human understanding. We know nothing of the nature of 
objects which are cognizable to sense, and which can be 
submitted to actual experiment, and yet we are not deterred 
from the investigation of their properties and mutual in- 
fluences. The passions are to be considered, in a medical 
point of view, as a part of our constitution. They stimulate 
or depress the mind, as food and drink do the body. Em- 
ployed occasionally, and in moderation, both may be of use 
to us, and are given to us by nature for this purpose ; but 
when urged to excess, the system is thrown off its balance, 
and disease is the result 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 49 

To the medical philosopher, nothing can be more deeply 
interesting than to trace the reciprocity of action existing 
between different mental conditions, and affections of parti- 
cular oi^ans. Thus the passion of fear, when excited, has a 
sensible influence on the action of the heart ; and when the 
disease of this organ takes place independently of any mental 
agitation, the passion of fear is powerfully roused. Anger 
affects the liver and confines the bowels, and firequently gives 
rise to an attack of jaundice ; and in hepatic and intestinal 
disease, how irritable the temper is I 

Hope, or the anticipation of pleasure, affects the respira- 
tion ; and how often do we see patients, in the last stage of 
pulmonary disease, entertaining sanguine expectations of 
recovery to the very last I 

As the passions exercise so despotic a tyranny over the phy- 
sical economy, it is natural to expect that the crime of juici^ 
should oft;en be trac ed to the influence of mental causes. In 
many cases, it is difiicult to discover whether the brain, the 
seat of the passions, be primarily or secondarily affected. 
Often the cause of irritation is situated at some distance from 
the cerebral organ ; but when the fountain-head of the nervous 
system becomes deranged, it will react on the bodily functions, 
and produce serious disease long after the original cause of 
excitement is removed. It is not our intention to attempt to 
explain the modus operandi of mental causes in the production 
of the suicidal disposition. That such effects result from an 
undue excitement of the mind cannot for one moment be ques- 
tioned. Independently of mental perturbation giving rise to 
maniacal suicide, there are certain conditions of mind, de- 
pendent upon acquired or hereditary disposition, or arising 
from a defective expansion of the intellectual faculties, which 
originate the desire for self-destruction. These states will all 
be alluded to in the course of the present inquiry. 

Some idea, of, the influence of certain mental states on the 

body- will be obtamed by an examination of the various tables 

which have been publbhed, in this and other countries, re- 



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50 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

specting the causes of suicide, as fiu: as they could be ascer- 
tained. 

The following suicides were committed in London, be- 
tween the years 1770 and 1830:*— 

Indication of Cautet* Men, Women, 

Poverty 905 .•. 511 

Domestic grief 728 ... 524 

Reverse of fortune 322 ... 283 

Drunkenness and misconduct .. 287 ... 208 

Gambling •• • 155 ... 141 

Dishonour and calumny 125 ... 95 

Disappointed ambition 122 ... 410 

Grief from love 97 ... 157 

Envy and jealousy 94 ... 53 

Wounded self-love 53 ... 53 

Remorse 49 ... 37 

Fanaticism 16 ... 1 

Misanthropy • ••• 3 ... 3 

Causes unknown 1381 ... 377 



Total 4337t 2853 

According to a table formed by Fahet of the suicides 
which took place between 1794 and 1823, the following 
results appear : — Of 6782 cases, 254 were from disappointed 
love, and of this number 157 were women; 92 were from 
jealousy; 125 from being calumniated; 49 from a desire, 
without the means, of vindicating their characters; 122 from 
disappointed ambition ; 322 from reverses of fortune ; 16 from 
wounded vanity; 155 from gambling; 288 from crime and 
remorse; 723 from domestic distress; 905 from poverty ; 16 
from fanaticism. 

* London Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. v. p. 51. 
t In a table given by Professor Caspar, of Berlin, one hundred and three 
cases of suicide are attributed to mental affections ; thirty of these may be 
classed under this head, and thirty-two under that of fear and despondency 
combined. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 51 

In preparing the present work, we have endeavoured to ob- 
tain access to documents which would throw some light on 
the probable origin of the many cases of self-destruction 
which have taken place within the last four or five years. 
In many cases we could obtain no insight into the motives of 
the individuals ; but in nine-tenths of those whose histories we 
succeeded in making ourselves somewhat conversant with, we 
found that mental causes played a very conspicuous part in 
the drama. Our experience on this point accords with that of 
many distinguished French physicians who have devoted their 
time and talents to the consideration of the subject. 

In considering the influence of mental causes, we shall in 
the first instance point out the effects of certain passions and 
dispositions of the individual on the body ; then investigate 
the operation of education, irreligion, and certain unhealthy 
conditions of the mind which predispose the individual to 
derangement and suicide. 

There is no passion of the mind which so readily drives a 
person to suicide as remorse. In these cases, there is generally 
a shipwreck of all hope. To live is horror ; the infiiriated 
sufferer feels himself an outcast fi*om God and man; and 
though his judgment may still be correct upon other subjects, 
'yt is completely overpowered upon that of his actual distress, 
and all he thinks of and aims at is to withdraw with as much 
speed as possible fi-om the present state of torture, totally 
regardless of the future. 

** I would not if I could be blest, 
I want no other paradise but rest.'' 

The most painfully interesting and melancholy cases of in- 
sanity are those in which remorse has taken possession of the 
mind. Simon Brown, the dissenting clergyman, fancied that 
he had been deprived by the Almighty of his immortal soul, 
in consequence of having accidentally taken away the life of 
a highwayman, although it was done in the act of resistance 
to his threatened violence, and in protection of his own 
person. Whilst kneeling upon the wretch whom he had suc- 

E 2 



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52 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

ceeded in throwing upon the ground, he suddenly discovered 
that his prostrate enemy was deprived of life. This unex- 
pected circumstance produced so violent an impression upon 
his nervous system, that he was overpowered by the idea of 
an involuntary homicide, and for this imaginary crime fancied 
himself ever afterwards condemned to one of the most dreadfiil 
punishments that could be inflicted upon a human being. 

A young lady was one morning requested by her mother to 
stay at home ; notwithstanding which, she was tempted to go 
out Upon her return to her domestic roo( she found that 
the parent whom she had so recently disobliged had expired 
in her absence. The awful spectacle of a mother's corpse, 
connected with the filial disobedience which had ahnost im- 
mediately preceded, shook her reason from its seat, and she 
has ever since continued in a state of mental derangement. 

It is said that the solitary hours of Charles the Ninth of 
France were rendered horrible by the repetition of the shrieks 
and cries which had assailed his ears during the massacre of 
St Bartholomew.* 

The death of Cardinal Beaufort is represented as truly 
terrible. The consciousness of having murdered the Duke of 
Gloucester is said to have rendered Beaufort's death one of the 
most terrific scenes ever witnessed. Despair, in its worst form, 
appeared to take possession of his mind at the last moment. 



* The massacre of St.Bartholomew lasted seven days, during which more than 
5000 persons were slain in Paris, and from 40 to 50,000 in the country. During 
the execution, the king betrayed neither pity nor remorse, but fired with his long 
gun at the poor fugitives across the river ; and on viewing the body of Coligni 
on a gibbet, he exulted with a fiendish malignity. In early life^ this monster 
had been noted for his cruelty : nothing gave him greater pleasure than cutting 
off the heads of asses or pigs with a single blow from his couteau de chasse. 
After the massacre, he is said to have contracted a singularly wild expression 
of feature, and to have slept little and waked in agonies. He attributed his 
thirst for human blood to the circumstance of his mother having at an early 
period of his life familiarized his mind with the brutal sport of hunting bul- 
locks, and with all kinds of cruelty. It is recorded that, when dying, he 
actually sweated blood. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SCICIDE. 53 

His concluding words, as recorded by Harpsfield,* were — "And 
must I then die ? Will not all my riches save me ? I could 
purchase the kingdom, if that would save my life. What ! is 
there no bribing of death ? When my nephew, the Duke of 
Bedford, died, I thought my happiness and my authority 
greatly increased ; but the Duke of Gloucester's death raised 
me in fancy to a level with kings, and I thought of nothing 
but accumulating still greater wealth, to purchase at last the 
triple crown. Alas ! how are my hopes disappointed I Where- 
fore, O my friends, let me earnestly beseech you to pray for 
me, and recommend my departing soul to God!" A few 
minutes before his death, his mind appeared to be undergoing 
the tortures of the damned. He held up his two hands, and 
cried — "Away! away! — ^why thus do ye look at me?** It 
was evident he saw some horrible spectre by his bed-side. 
This last scene in the Cardinal's life has been most ably de- 
lineated by the immortal Shakspeare : — 

Sc£N£ — The Cardinafs Bed-chamber, 
Enter King Henry, Salisbury, and Warwick. 

King Hen, How fares my Lord ? Speak, Beaufort, to thy sovereign. 

Cardinal. If thou be'st Death, I'll give thee England's treasure. 
Enough to purchase such another island. 
So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain. 

King Hen. Ah ! what a sign it is of evil life 

When death's approach is seen so terrible. 

Warwick. Beaufort, it is thy sovereign speaks to thee. 

Cardinal, Bring me unto my trial when you will. 

Died hef not in his bed ? Where should he die ? 
Can I make men live whe'er they will or no ? 
O, torture me no more, I will confess — 
Alive again ? then shew me where he is : 
I'll give a thousand pound to look upon him — 
He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them. — 
Comb down his hair ; look ! look ! it stands upright, 
Like lime-twigs set to catch my winged soul. — 

* Hist. Eccles. edit. Duaci, 1622, p. 643 — 4. 
t Meaning the Duke of Gloucester. 



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54 TUB INFLUENCE OV CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

Give roe some drink, and bid the apothecuy 

Bring the ttroDg poUoo that I bought of biro. 
King Hen. O tbou eternal Mover of the Heav*uty 

Look with a gentle eye upon this wretch. 

O, beat away the busy meddling fiend. 

That lays strong siege unto this wretch's soul. 

And from his boeom purge this black despair. 
Warwick. See how the pangs of death do make him grin ! 
Sittisbury. Disturb him not ; let him pass peaceably. 
King Hen. Peace lo his soul, if God's good pleasure be! 

Lord Cardinal, if thou think'st on heaven's bliss. 

Lift up thy hand, make signal of thy hope. — 

He dies, and makes no sign — O God, forgive him ! 
Warwick. So bad a death argues a monstrous life. 
King Hen. Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all. — 

Close up his eyes, and draw the curtain close. 

And let us all to meditation.* 

M. Guillon relates the following remarkable case : — " The 

Chevalier de S had been engaged in seventeen * affairs 

of honour,' in each of which his adversary fell. But the 
images of his murdered rivals began to haunt him night and 
day; and at length he fancied he heard nothing but the 
wailings and upbraidings of seventeen families — one demand- 
ing a father, another a son, another a brother, another a hus- 
band, &c. Harassed by these imaginary followers, he incar- 
cerated himself in the monastery of La Trappe; but the 
French revolution threw open this asylum, and turned the 
chevalier once more into the world. He was now no longer 
able to bear the remorse of his own conscience, or, as he ima- 
gined, the sight of seventeen murdered men, and therefore 
put himself to death. It is evident that insanity was the con- 
sequence of the remorse, and the cause of the suicide. 

^* No disease of the imagination is so difficult to cure as that 
which is complicated with the idea of guilt : fancy and con- 
science then act interchangeably upon us, and so oflen shifl 
their places, that the illusions of one are not distinguished from 

* King Henry, Act 3. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE.' • 55 

tbe dictates of the other. If fancy presents images not moral 
or religious^ the mind drives them away when they give pain ; 
but when melancholy notions take the form of duty, they lay 
hold on the faculties without opposition, because we are 
afraid to exclude or banish them."* 

How accurately has the poet depicted the tortures, the 
sleeplessness, of a guilty conscience : — 

'* Though thy slumber may be deep, 
Yet thy spirit shall not sleep ; 
There are shades which will not vanish, 
There are thoughts thou canst not banish ; 
By a power to thee unknown, 
Thou canst never be alone ; 
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud, 
Thou art gathered in a cloud ; 
And for ever shalt thou dwell 
In the spirit of this spell/* 

A woman with her husband had been employed in a French 
hospital as servants for a considerable time. Having left 
their situations, the wife, thirty years afterwards, declared she 
heard a voice within, commanding her to repair instantly to 
the chief commissioner of police, and confess the thefts she 
had committed during the time she was at the hospital The 
fact was, that she had been guilty of appropriating occasion- 
ally to her own use a portion of the food supplied for the 
patients attached to the Institution. The commissioner 
listened to the woman's story, and her demand that she should 
be punished, but reftised to take any cognizance of the 
offence. She returned home, and for some time was extremely 
dejected. She became so miserable that existence was no 
longer desirable ; and as the legal tribunals refused to punish 
her, she determined on suicide, which she committed at the 
age of fifty-one. 

It is admitted, by almost universal consent, that there is no 
affection of the mind that exerts so tremendous an influence 
over the human race as that of love. 

♦ Dr. Johnson's Rasselas. 



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56 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

*' To love, and fed ounelfes beloved,** 

is said to constitute the height of human happiness. This 
sacred sentiment, which some have debased by the term pas- 
sion, when unrequited and iireg^ukted, produces the most 
baneful influence upon the system. 

** A youthful passion, which is conceived and cherished 
without any certain object, may be compared to a shell thrown 
from a mortar by night : it rises calmly in a brilliant track, 
and seems to mix, and even to dwell for a moment with the 
stars of heaven ; but at length it falls — it bursts — consuming 
and destroying all around, even as itself expires."* 

From the constitution of woman, from the peculiar position 
which she of necessity holds in society, we should, a prioriy 
have concluded that in her we should see manifested thj^ 
sentiment in all its purity and strength. Such is the fact 
A woman's life is said to be but the history of her a£Pections. 
It is the soul within her soul; the pulse within her heart; 
the life blood along her veins, " blending with every atom of 
her frame." Separated from the bustle of active life — ^isolated 
like a sweet and rare exotic flower from the world, it is natu* 
ral to expect that the mind should dwell with earnestness 
upon that which is to constitute almost its very being, and 
apart from which it has no existence. 

-, - *• Alas ! the love of woman, it is known 
To be a lovely and a fearful thing; 
For all of theirs upon that die is thrown ; 
And if 'tis lost, life hath no more to bring 
To them, but mockeries of the past alone.** 

Byron. 

The term '' broken heart" is not a mere poetical image. 
Cases are recorded in which that organ has been ruptured in 
consequence of disappointed hope. Let those who are scep- 
tical as to the fact that physical disease so often results from 
blighted affection, visit the wards of our public and private 

* Goethe, in allusion to one of his own early attachments. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 57 

asylums. In those dreary regions of misery they will have 
an opportunity of witnessing the wreck of many a form that 
was once beauteous and happy. Ask their history, and you 
will be told of holy and sincere affection nipped in the bud—* 
of wild and passionate love strangled at its birth — of the death 
of ^ all human hopes, of a severance from those about whom 
every fibre of the soul had entwined itsel£ Silent and sullen 
grief, black despair, 

** And laOghter loud, amidst feverest woe,'* 

are the painful images that meet the eye at every step we 
take through these ^^ hells upon earth."* 

In this country, the great majority of the cases of insanity 
among women, in our establishments devoted to the reception 
of the insane, can clearly be traced to unrequited and disap- 
pointed affection. This is not to be wondered at, if we con- 
sider the present artificial state of society. We make ** mer- 
chandize of love ;" both men and women are estimated, not 
by their mental endowments, not by their moral worth, not 
by their capacity of making the domestic firenside happy, but 
by the length of their respective purses. Instead of seeking 
for a heart, we look for a dowry. Money is preferred to 
intellect; pure and unadulterated affection dwindles into 
nothingness when placed in the same scale with titles and 
worldly honours, 

'* And Mammon wins his way 
Where seraphs might despair.** 

How little do those who ought to be influenced by more 
elevated motives calculate the seeds of wretchedness and 
misery which they are sowing for those who, by nature, have 
a right to demand that they should be actuated by other 
principles ! 

* Love, it is said, often turns the brains of the Italians, even the men. 
M. Esquirol says, " Frenchmen seldom go mad from love. A Frenchman 
often kills himself in a sally of passion and feeling, but is seldom in love 
long enough to go mad about it." 



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58 THE IBTFLUENCB OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

<< Shall I be wod 
Becauie I'm valued as a mamey'bagf 
For that I bring to him who winneth me/'* 

says Catherine, in the spirit of honest indignation* It should 
be remembered that '' wedlock joins nothing, if it joins not 
hearts." 

How many mehmcholy cases of suicide can clearly be 
traced to this cause I Death is considered preferable to a long 
life of unmitigated sorrow. When the heart is seared, when 
there exists no " green spot in memory's dreary waste,** — 
when all hope is banished fix)m the mind, and wretched 
loneliness and desolation take up their residence in the heart, 
need it excite surprise that the quiet and rest of the grave is 
eagerly longed for! If a mind thus worked upon be not 
influenced by religious principles, self-destruction is the idea 
constantly present to the imagination. 

Of all the sufierings, however, to which we are exposed 
during our sojourn below, nothing is so truly overwhelming 
and irreparable as the death of one with whom all our early 
associations are inseparably linked — one endeared to us by 
the most pleasing recollections. Death leaves a blank in our 
existence ; a cold shuddering shoots through the frame, a mist 
flits before our eyes, darkening the face of nature, when the 
heart that mingled all its feelings with ours lies, cold and in- 
sensible, in the silent grave. 

As long as life lasts, there is hope ; but death snatches every 
ray of consolation from the mind. The only prop that sup- 
ported us is removed, and the mansion crumbles to the dust ; 
the mind becomes utterly and hopelessly wrecked. To say 
that this is but the efiect on understandings constitutionally 
weak, is to say what facts will not establish. The most ele- 
vated and best cultivated minds are often the most sensitively 
alive to such impressions. 

The following case made considerable noise at Lyons, in 

♦ " Love." 



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IX INDUCING THE DlgPOSITION TO SUICIDE* 59 

1770. A young gentleman of rank, of handsome exterior, 
possessing considerable mental endowments, and moet re- 
spectably connected, fell in love with a jotmg lady, who, like 
himself, possessed a handsome person, in union with accom- 
plishments of a high order. They met ; the passion was re- 
ciprocal, and the gentleman accordingly made an application 
to her parents to be allowed to consummate their bliss by 
marriage. The parents, as parents sometimes do under these 
circumstances, refused compliance. The gendeman took it 
greatly to heart ; it preyed much upon his mind, and in the 
midst of his grief he burst a blood-vesseL His case was given 
over by the medical men. The young lady, on being made 
acquainted with his condition, paid him a clandestine visit, 
and they then agreed to destroy themselves. Accordingly 
the lady brought with her, on her next visit, two pistok and 
two daggers, in order that, if the pistols missed, the daggers 
might die next moment pierce their hearts. They embraced 
each other for the last time. Rose-coloured ribbons were 
tied to the triggers of the pistols ; the lover holding the rib- 
bon of his mistress' pistol, while she held the ribbon of his; 
both fired at a given signal, and both fell at the same instant 
dead on the floor ! 

The case now about to be recorded presents some pecu- 
liarly interesting features. An English lady, moving in the 
first circles of society, went, in company with her fiiends, to 
the opera at Paris. In the next box sat a gentleman, who 
appeared, fix>m the notice he took of the lady, to be en- 
amoured of her. The lady expressed herself annoyed at the 
observation which she had attracted, and moved to another 
part of the box. The gentleman followed the carriage home, 
and insisted upon addressing the lady, declaring that he had 
had the pleasure of meeting her elsewhere, and that one 
minute's conversation would convince her of the &ct, and do 
away with the unfavourable impression which his apparent 
rudeness might have made upon her mind. As his request 



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60 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

did not appear at the moment mojreasonable^ she consented 
to see him for a minute by herself. In that short space 
of time he made a fervent declaration of his affection^; ac- 
knowledged that desperation had compelled him to have 
recourse to a ruse to obtain an interview, and that, unless she 
looked &vourably on his pretensions, he would kill her and 
then himself The lady expressed her indignation at the 
deceit he had practised, and said, with considerable firmness, 
that he must quit the house. He did so, retired to his home, 
and with a lancet opened a vein in his arm. He collected a 
portion of blood in a cup, and with it wrote a note to the 
lady, telling her that his blood was flowing fast fix)m his body, 
and it should continue to flow until she consented to listen 
to his proposals. The lady, on the receipt of the note, sent 
her servant to see the gentleman, and found him, as he re- 
presented, actually bleeding to death. On the entreaty of 
the lady, the arm was bound up and his life saved. On 
vmting to the lady, under the impression that she would now 
accept his addresses, he was amazed on receiving a cool re- 
fusal, and a request that he would not trouble her with any 
more letters. Again driven to desperation, he resolved effec- 
tually to kill himsel£ He accordingly loaded a pistol and 
directed his steps towards the residence of his &ir amorosa, 
when, knocking at the door, he gained admission, and imme- 
diately blew out his brains. The intelligence was communi- 
cated to the lady, she became dreadfully excited, and a severe 
attack of nervous fever followed. When the acute symptoms 
subsided, her mind was completely deranged. Her insanity 
took a peculiar turn. She fancied she heard a voice com- 
manding her to commit suicide, and yet she appeared to be 
possessed of sufficient reason to know that she was desirous of 
doing what she ought to be restrained from accomplishing. 
Every now and then she would exclaim, ^* Take away the 
pistol! I wont hang myself ! I wont take poison!" Under 
the impression that she would kill herself^ she was carefully 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SXHCIDE. 61 

watched ; but notwithstanding the vigilance which was exer- 
cised she had sufficient cunning to conceal a knife, with 
which, during the temporary absence of the attendant, she 
stabbed herself in the abdomen, and died in a few hours. 
It appears that the idea that she had caused the death of an- 
other, and that she had it in her power to save his life by 
complying with his wishes, produced the derangement of 
mind under which she was labouring at the time of her death ; 
and yet she did not manifest, and it was evident to everybody 
that she had not, the slightest affection for the gentleman 
who professed so much to admire her. Possessing naturally a 
sensitive mind, it was easily excited. The peculiar circum- 
stances connected with her mental derangement were suffi- 
cient to account for the delusions under which she laboured. 
Altogether the case is full of interest 

Few passions tend more to distract and unsettle the mind 
than that of jealousy. Insanity and suicide often owe their 
origin to this feeling. One of the most terrific pictures of the 
dire effects of this "green-eyed monster" on the mind is de- 
lineated in the character of Othello. In the Moor of Venice 
we witness a fearful struggle between fond and passionate love 
and this corroding mental emotion. Worked upon by the 
villanous artifices of lago, Othello is led to doubt the con- 
stancy of Desdemona*s affection ; the very doubt urges him 
almost to the brink of madness ; but when he feels assured of 
her guilt, and sees the gulf into which he has been hurled, 
and the utter hopelessness of his condition, he abandons him- 
self to despair. Nothing which the master spirit of Shakspeare 
ever penned can equal the exquisitely touching and melting 
pathos of the speech of the Moor when he becomes perfectly 
conscious of the wreck of one around whom every tendril of 
his heart had indissolubly interwoven itself. To be forcibly 
severed from one dearer to us than our own existence is a 
misfortune that requires much philosophy to bear up against ; 
to be torn from a beloved object by death, to feel that the 



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62 THB IHFLUEKCB OP CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

earth encloses in its cold embrace the idol of our affections, 
fireeses the heart ; but to be separated from one who has for- 
feited all claim to our affection and friendship, and who still 
lives, but lives in dishonour, must be a refinement of human 
misery. Need we then wonder that, when influenced by such 
feelings, Othello should thus give expression to the overflow- 
ings of his soul: — 

" Oh now, for ever. 
Farewell the timnquil mind 1 fiirewell conteut ! 
Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars, 
That make ambition virtue 1 Oh, fturewell ! 
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump. 
The spirit-stirring drum, th' ear-piercing fife, 
The royal banner, and all quality. 
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war ! 
And, oh, you mortal engines, whose rude throats 
Th' immortal Jove*s dread clamours counterfeit, 
Farewell 1 Othello's occupation's gone 1" 

It is under the infliction of such a concentration of misery 
that many a mind is shattered, and that death is courted as 
the only relief within its grasp. Othello, having discovered 
when it was too late that he had wrongly suspected Desde- 
mona, and had sacrificed the life of the sweetest creature on 
earth, a combination of passions drives him to distraction, and 
under their influence he plunges the dagger into his heart. 
Jealousy was not, as some have supposed, the exclusive cause 
of Othello's suicide. 

The following singular case attracted considerable notice 
fifteen years ago. A woman was subjected to much mal- 
treatment by her husband. She was jealous of his attentions 
to one of the servants, and she had frequently declared, that 
if he persisted in insulting her under her own roof she would 
either cause bis or her own death. On one occasion she was 
more than usually violent, and expressed her determination to 
ruin him. Fearftd that she would carry her threat into exe- 
cution, he had her placed in a room where there was no fur- 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 63 

niture, and nothing that she could use for the purpose of self- 
destruction. Her rage was greatly increased by this barbarous 
treatment, and her screams were sufBciently loud to alarm the 
whole neighbourhood. As her husband refused to release her 
&om confinement, she determined no longer to submit to his 
brutal control, and resolved to commit suicide. Having no 
instrument that she could use, she felt some difBculty in effect- 
ing her purpose. She held her breath for some time, but that 
did not succeed. She then tried to strangle herself with her 
hands, but that mode was equally unsuccessful Her deter- 
mination was so resolutely fixed, that in desperation she tore 
her hair out by the roots. Still death did not come to her 
relief. In vain she searched in every comer of the room for 
something with which she might effectually take away her life. 
Just as she was beginning to give up the idea as hopeless, her 
eye caught a sight of the glass in the window ; she instantly 
broke a pane, and with a piece of it endeavoured to cut her 
throat; and yet she could not succeed in effecting her horrid 
purpose. At last, as a dernier resort, she resolved to swallow 
a piece of the broken glass, hoping by this means to choke 
herself. She did so, and the glass stuck in her throat, and 
produced the most excruciating agony. Her groans became 
audible ; the husband became alarmed, and opened the door, 
when he found his wife apparently in the last struggles of 
death. Medical relief was immediately obtained^ and although 
everything that surgical ingenuity could suggest was had re- 
course to, she died, a melancholy spectacle of the effects of 
unsubdued passion. 

The two following cases shew how trifling a cause oflen 
incites to self-destruction : — 

Madame N y a once famous dancer at the French 

operarhouse, was taken to task by her husband for not acquit- 
ting herself so well in the ballet as she usually did. She ex- 
hibited indications of passion at the, as she thought, unmerited 
reproof. When she arrived home, she resolved to die, but was 
much puzzled to effect her purpose. The next morning, she 



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64 THB IKFLUBNCB OF CEBTAIN MENTAL STATES 

purchased a potent poison, but when she returned to her home 
she found that her husband looked suspiciously at her, and 
appeared to watch her movements. She then made up her 
mind to take the fiital draught in the evening, as she was 
going in the carriage to the opera. She accordingly did so ; 
the poison did not have an immediate effect The baUet 

commenced, and Madame N was led on the stage ; and 

it was not until she had commenced dancing that she began 
to feel the draught producing the desired effect She com- 
plained of illness, and was removed to her dressing-room, 
where she expired in the arms of her husband, confessing 
that she had, in a fit of chagrin at his rebuke, swallowed 
poison! 

A young gentleman, of considerable promise, of high 
natural and acquired attainments, had been solicited to make 
a speech at a public meeting, which was to take place in the 
town in which he resided. As he had never attempted to 
address extemporaneously a public body, he expressed him- 
self extremely nervous as to the result, and asked permission 
to withdraw his name trom the published list of speakers. 
This wish was not, however, complied with, as it was thought 
that when the critical moment arrived he would not be found 
wanting even in the art of public speaking. He had pre- 
pared himself with considerable care for the attempt His 
name was annoimced trout the chair; when he rose for the 
purpose of delivering his sentiments. The exordium was 
spoken without any hesitation ; and his firiends felt assured 
that he would acquit himself with great credit He had not, 
however, advanced much beyond his prefatory observations, 
when he hesitated, and found himself incapable of proceeding. 
He then sat down, evidently excessively mortified. In this 
state he retired to a room where the members of the com- 
mittee had previously met, and cut his throat with his pen- 
knife. He wounded the carotid artery, and died in a few 
minutes. 

A case of suicide fix)m mortified pride, somewhat similar 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 65 

to the last, occurred some years ago in London. A gentle- 
man, whose imagination was much more active than his 
judgment, conceived that he was possessed of histrionic 
powers equal to those which were exhibited by the immortal 
Garrick* A manager of a London theatre, to whom he 
was introduced, allowed him to make his debiit at his theatre. 
As is often the case, the public formed a different estimate of 
his abilities to that, which the vanity of the young aspirant had 
induced him to form ; and the consequence was, that he was 
well hissed and hooted for his presumption in attempting a 
character for which his talents, so little adapted him. Being 
naturally sensitive, his fidlure preyed on his mind ; and under 
the influence of the mortification, he hung himself, leaving 
in his room the following laconic epistle, addressed to his 
mother : — 

# 
"My Deak Mother, — All my hopes have been ruined. 

I &ncied myself a man of genius ; the reality has proved me 

to be a fooL I die, because life is no longer to *be supported. 

Look charitably on this last action of my life. Adieu !" 

A common cause of suicide is the feeling of false pride. 
The only reason assigned for the desperate act of Elizabeth 
Moyes, who threw herself fi:om the Monument, was, that, 
owing to the reduced circumstances of her fethei*, (a baker,) 
it was determined that she should procure a situation at a 
confectioner's, and support herself. This she allowed to prey 
upon her mind, although she expressed a concurrence in the 
propriety of the course suggested. How true it is — 

'* Abstract what others feel, what others think, 
All pleasures sicken, and all glories sink." 

Pope. 

Owing to the fictitious notions abroad in society, the ridi- 
culously false views which are taken of worldly honours, the 
ideas which a sickly sentimentality infiises into the mind, this 
feeling is engendered, to an alarming extent, through the 



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M THR INFLirEKi E OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

different ranks of society. This constitutes one great element 
which is undermining and disorganizing our social condition. 
A fictitious value is affixed to wealth and position in the 
world; it is estimated for itself alone^ all other consider- 
adons being placed out of view. 

" None think the great unhappy but the great." 

Vatel committed suicide because he was not able to prepare 
as sumptuous an entertainment as he wished for his guests. 

We cannot conceive how this evil is to be obviated, unless it 
be possible to revolutionize the ideas which are generally 
attached to &me and worldly grandeur. It is difficult to 
persuade such persons that the end of &me is merely 

** To have, when the original is dust, 
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust." 

There is a nameless, undefinable something, that the world 
is taught to sigh after — ^is always in search of; a moral 
ifffiis fatutiSy which is dazzling to lead it from the road which 
points to true and unsophisticated happiness. 

Persons naturally proud are less able than others to bear 
up against the distresses of life ; they are more severely galled 
by the yoke of adversity ; and hence this passion ofben pro- 
duces mental derangement Such characters exhibit a 
morbid desire for praise; it acts like moral nourishment to 
their souls ; it is a stimulus that is almost necessary to their 
very being, forgetting that 

" Praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought, 
Enfeebles all eternal weight of thought ; 
'Till the fond soul, within itself unblest. 
Leans for all pleasure on another^t breast.** 

Dr. Reid justly observes, that " he who enters most deeply 
into the misfortunes of others, will be best able to bear his 
own. A practical benevolence, by habitually ui^ing us to 
disinterested exertion, tends to alienate the attention from 
any single train of ideas, which, if favoured by indolence and 
self contemplation, might be in danger of monopolizing the 



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IN INDUCINa THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 67 

mind^ and occasions us to lose a sense of our personal con- 
cerns in an enlarged and liberal sympathy with the general 
good.** 

Villeneuve, the celebrated French admiralj when he was 
taken prisoner and brought to England^ was so much grieved 
at his defeat that he studied anatomy in order to destroy 
himself. For this purpose he bought some anatomical plates 
of the heart, and compared them with his own body, in order 
to ascertain the exact situation of that oigan* On his arrival 
in France, Buonaparte ordered that he should remain at 
Rennes, and not proceed to Paris. Villeneuvej afraid of 
being tried by a court-martial for disobedience of orders, and 
consequently losing his fleet, (for Napoleon had ordered him 
not to sail or to engage the English,) determined to destroy 
himself; and accordingly took his plates and compared them 
with the position of his heart. Exactly in the centre he 
made a mark with a large pin ; then fixed it, as near as he 
could judge, in the same spot in his own breaat, and shoved 
it on to its head ; it penetrated his heart, and he expired. 
When the room was opened, he was found dead, the pin 
through his breast, and a mark in the plate corresponding 
with the wound.* 

It has been said that after the death of Josephine, and 
when Buonaparte was overwhelmed with misfortunes, he 
attempted suicide. Those who consider Napoleon imma- 
culate deny the accuracy of the charge. But in order to 
give the reader an opportunity of judging for himself, we 
lay before him Sir Walter Scott's account of the trans- 
action referred to. "Buonaparte," he observes, ** belonged 
to the Roman. school of philosophy; and it is confidently 
reported by Baron Fane, his secretary — though not universally 
believed — that he designed to escape from life by an act of 
suicide. The Emperor, according to this account, had 
carried with him, ever since his retreat from Moscow, a 

* O'Meara's " Voice from St. Helena," vol. i. p. 57. 
F 2 



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68 THE INFLUENCE OF CEBTAIN MENTAL STATES 

packet containing a preparation of opium, made up in the 
same manner with that used by Condorcet, for self-destruction. 
His valet-de-chambre, in the night of the 12th or 13th of 
April, heard him arise, and pour something into a glass 
of water, drink, and return to bed. In a short time after- 
wards the man's attention was called by sobs and stifled 
groans; an alarm took place in the chateau; some of the 
principal persons were roused, and repaired to Napoleon's 
chamber. Yvan, the surgeon who had procured him the 
poison, was also summoned ; but hearing the Emperor com- 
plain that the operation of the potion was not quick enough, 
he was seized with a panic of terror, and fled from the palace 
at full gallop. Napoleon took the remedies recommended, 
and a long fit of stupor ensued, with profuse perspiration. 
He awakened much exhausted, and siuprised at finding him- 
self still alive. He said aloud, after a few moments' reflection, 
* Fate will not have it so ;' and afterwards appeared recon- 
ciled to undergo his destiny without similar attempts at per- 
sonal violence." Napoleon's illness was, at the time, imputed 
to indigestion. A general of the highest distinction transacted 
business with Napoleon on the morning of the 13th of April. 
He seemed pale and dejected, as from recent and exhausting 
illness. His only dress was a night-gown and slippers ; and 
he drank, from time to time, a quantity of ptisan, or some 
such liquid, which was placed beside him, saying he had 
sufiered severely during the night, but that his complaint had 
left him.* 

We cannot conceive a more piteous condition than that of a 
man of great ambition without the powers of mind which are 
indispensable for its gratification. In him a constant contest 
is going on between an intellect constitutionally weak, and a 
desire to distinguish himself in some particular department of 
life. How often a man so unhappily organized ends his 
career in a madhouse, or terminates his miserable existence 

* ** Life of Napoleon," Vol. viii. p. 244. 

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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 69 

hj suicide I Let men be taught to make correct estimates of 
their own capabilities, to curb in the imagination, to cease 
*^ building castles in the air," if we wish to advance their 
mental and bodily health. ^^ Ne stUar ultra crepidam^^ said 
Apelles to the cobler. A young man who ** penned a stanza 
when he ought to engross," blew out his brains because 
he had failed in inducing a London publisher to purchase an 
epic poem which he had written, and which he had the 
vanity to conceive was equal to Paradise Lost, forgetting that, 
in order to be a poet, — 

'^ Nature's kiiidJiug breath 
Must fire the chosen genius ; nature's hand 
Must string his nerves and imp his eagle wings." 

That this state of mind predisposes and often leads to the 
commission of suicide, numerous cases testify. 

Despair often drives men to suicide. The dread of 
poverty and want; the hopes in which we often injudi-< 
ciously place too much of our happiness entirely blasted; 
either honest or false pride humbled by public or private 
contempt ; ambitious views suddenly and unexpectedly dis- 
appointed ; pains of the body, the loss of those dear and 
near to us, — tend to originate this feeling, and induce the 
unhappy person to seek relief in self-murden 

How terrible is the situation of the man exposed to the 
influence of this passion, and deprived of the cheering and 
elevating influence of hope 1 We had an opportunity, some 
years back, of witnessing the case of a maniac, whose derange- 
ment of mind consisted in his having abandoned himself 
completely to despair. He laboured under no distinct or 
prominent delusion, but his mental alienation consisted in 
the total absence of all prospect of relief. The iron had 
entered his very soul ; he appeared as if the hand of a relent- 
less destiny had written on the threshold of his door, as on 
the gate of the Inferno of Dante, the heart-rending sentence, 
" Abandon all hope !" 



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70 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

A woman is seduced by some heartless and profligate wretch ; 
she is in a short time forsaken and left to her &te. Her mind 
recurs to the past; she recalls to recollection her once happy 
state of innocence and peace. Scorned by the world, shunned 
by her relations and friends, she is driven to a state of agonizing 
distraction. Despair, in its worst features, takes possession 
of her mind, and under this feeling she puts an end to her 
existence. A man under the operation of this passion wrote 
as follows : — 

'^ It has pleased the Almighty to weaken my understanding, 
to undermine my reason, and to render me unfit for the dis- 
cliaige of my duty. My blood rolls in billows and torrents of 
despair. It must have vent How ? I possess a place to 
which I am a dishonour, inasmuch as I am incapable of dis- 
charging it properly ; I prevent some better man from doing 
it more justice. This piece of bread which I lament is all 
that I have to support myself and family ; even this I do not 
merit ; I eat it in sin, and yet I live. Killing thought ! which 
a conscience hitherto uncomipted inspires. I have a wife, 
also, and my chDd reproaches me with its existence. But 
you do not know, my dear friends, that if my unhappy life is 
not speedily ended, my weak head will require all your care, 
and I shall become a burthen rather than an assistance to 
you. It is better that I yield myself a timely sacrifice to 
misfortune, than, by permitting the delusion to continue longer, 
I consume the last farthing of my wife's inheritance. It is a 
duty of every person to do that which his situation requires ; 
reason commands it, religion approves. My life, such as it is, 
is a mere animal life, devoid of reason ; in my mind, a life 
which stands in opposition to duty is moral death, and worse 
than that which is natural. In favour of the few whose life I 
cannot render happy, it is at least my duty not to become an 
oppression. I ought to relieve them from a weight which 
sooner or later cannot fail to crush them.'' 

This unfortunate man, after penning the above account 
of his morbid feelings, sent his wife to church on Sunday, 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 71 

May 13th, 1783 ; and after writing an addition to his journal, 
took a pair of scissors and attempted, although unsuccessfiilly, 
to terminate his life by cutting his throat He then opened 
the arteries at the wrists, and again failed in destroying him- 
self; he staggered to the window, and saw his wife returning 
home, upon which he seized a knife used for killing deer, and 
stabbed himself in the heart. He was lying weltering in his 
blood when his wife came in, but was not quite dead. M. le 
Clare, who relates the case, observes, that he was a man of 
understanding, and of a lively wit. He possessed a great deal 
of theoretical learning; his heart was incorruptibly honest. 
Like every calm and determined self-murderer, he was proud ; 
but his pride was not the pride of rank, of riches, or of learn- 
ing, but that divine pride which arises from a consciousness 
of incorruptible honesty, and of being possessed of good 
powers of mind. The office he held was that of an assistant 
judge in a small college of justice at Insterberg. His mother 
had been once deranged in her mind. 

Few persons have given a more striking example of this 
passion than the Abbe de Ranee, when first touched with re- 
morse for the enormity of his past life, and before the dis- 
turbed state of his mind had settled into that turn for religious 
seclusion and mortification which produced the appalling 
austerities of La Trappe. " To a state of frantic despair," 
says Don Lancelot, in his letter to La M^re Angelique of 
Port Royal, " succeeded a black melancholy. He sent away 
all his friends, and shut himself up in his mansion at Veret, 
where he would not see a creature. His whole soul, nay, even 
his bodily wants, seemed wholly absorbed in a deep and settled 
gloom. Shut up in a single room, he even forgot to eat and 
drink ; and when the servant reminded him that it was bed- 
time, he started as from a deep reverie, and seemed uncon- 
scious that it was not still morning. When he was better, he 
would often wander in the woods for the entire day, wholly 
regardless of the weather. A faithful servant, who sometimes 
followed him by stealth, oflen watched him standing for hours 



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72 TBS INFLUBNCB OF CKRTADI MBNTAL STATES 

together in one pUce^ the snow and the niin beating on his 
head, whilst he, onconscious of his position, was wholly absorbed 
in painful recollections. Then, at the fiJl of a leaf, or the noise 
of the deer, he would awake as finom a slumber, and, wringing 
his hands, hasten to bury himself in a thicker part of the 
wood, or else throw himself prostrate, with his isuce in the 
snow, and groan bitterly."* 

How many commit suicide from what is termed a blind 
impulse ! They fancy that an internal voice tells them to kill 
themselves ; and considering it impossible to resist what they 
term a destiny, they do so. A gentleman, a merchant of the 
city of London, had been exposed to great mental pertur- 
bation ; his nervous system had received a severe shock. He 
suffered extremely from a dread of going mad. As he was 
walking home one afternoon, he heard a voice say, ^^ Kill 
thyself!" *^ Commit suicide T and from that moment he could 
not banish the idea from his mind. Two or three times he 
was on the eve of obeying the mandate of this internal voice ; 
but he fortunately possessed sufficient resolution to resist 
the temptation. In this state of mind he consulted a phy- 
sician, who ordered him to be cupped in the neighbourhood 
of the head. His bowels were attended to, and he was re- 
commended to visit some friends in the north of Scotland, and 
to banish from his mind all ideas connected with business. 
He followed the advice of his judicious physician, and in a 
short time he completely recovered. 

In the midst of health apparently perfect and uniform, a man 
was attacked with a sudden disposition to destroy. He seized 

* It is worthy of remark that the judge who coDdemned, as well as the 
disciple who betrayed, our Saviour, were both driven by despair to suicide. 
The fate of Judas is recorded in the Gospel ; the concluding scenes in the 
life of Pontius Pilate are related by two learned historians {Josephus and 
Eusehiut,) The former says that " Pontius Pilate, after having exercised 
great cruelties in his government of Judaea, was, before the Roman £m» 
peror (Caligula), stripped of all his dignities and fortunes, and banished to 
Gaul, where it is said he suffered such extreme hardships of body and despair 
of mind, that^ after lingering for two years, he became his own executioner.'* 



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OF ^HE 

UNIVERSITY 

OF 



IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 73 

a Stick, raised it, struck indiscriminately and broke everything 
that presented itself to him. After some seconds, the stick fell 
from his hands, and he appeared restored to himsel£ The man 
knew nothing of what he had just done. He was reproached, 
he was shewn the remnants of the things that he had broken ; 
he thought they were ridiculing him, and he was greatly irri- 
tated. He was again seized with frenzy, and killed a person. 
He was taken before a court of justice, acquitted on the 
ground of insanity, and placed in an hospital. This dis- 
position to destroy returned at distant intervals; it then 
came on more frequently ; and finally, changed into fits of 
epilepsy. A person seized with this morbid desire is not 
always unconscious of the approach of the disposition ; he 
has sometimes a presentiment of it, perceives its danger, 
seeks to combat it, and frequently succeeds in effecting his 
purpose. 

A labourer, at the end of his day's work, felt himself 
seized with an irresistible desire of running ; he rushed upon 
the quay, which goes from the Louvre to the Greve : every 
obstacle was overcome. An attempt was made to stop him, 
but it was not successfiil. At last he dexterously engaged one 
of his arms in the wheel of a carriage, which happened to be 
within his reach. Thus withheld, he recovered his breath, 
became calm, and appeared to have no idea of what 
had occurred. This feeling was again manifested, and 
he was properly sent by his firiends to an hospital, when 
it was discovered that he had a disease of the spinal 
marrow. 

A man arrived upon the Pont Neuf ; he rushed violently 
to the parapet, and precipitated himself into the Seine. 
He was seen by some of the bystanders, who drew him out of 
the water and saved his life. After some days of complete 
restoration, his fiiends asked him the reason of his strange 
conduct He replied, " I cannot give any account. I am in 
the happiest situation in the world. I have only to play with 
fortune and with men. I have never been ill. I do not know 



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74 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

what troubles may come apon me. I can only recollect my 
arrival on the Pont Neuf, and my recall to life." 

The particulars of the following &ct are recorded in Mi& 
Mathews' life of her husband. Mathews the comedian had 
lived for some days a vapid and inactive life. His spirit had 
been pressed down, ** cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd." In this state 
of mindy a party of gentlemen called upon him, and proposed 
a day's excursion. Accordingly, they all mounted their 
horses. Mrs. Mathews says — " My husband's depressed 
spirits were exhilarated by the beauty of the weather, and the 
prospect of a day's pleasure (free from the restraint of a room, 
listening to truisms) in the open air, where he would have 
uncontrolled power to gaze upon his idol, Nature, in her most 
beautiful form. He had not ridden out of the city for some 
weeks, and was in a state of childish delight and excitement. 
At this moment his eyes turned upon one of the party, a very 
little man, who was perched on a very tall horse, and who 
seemed unusually grave and important Mr. Mathews 
looked at him for a moment ; and the next, knocked him off 
with a smart blow, felling him to the ground. The whole 
party were struck with horror; but no one felt more shocked 
than he who had committed the outrage. He dismounted, 
picked up the little victim to his unaccountable freak, de- 
clared himself unable to give any motive for the action, but 
that it was an impulse he could not resist ; and afterwards, in 
relating this extraordinary incident, he declared his conviction 
that it was done in a moment of frenzy, induced by the too 
sudden reaction from previous stagnation of all freedom and 
amusement" 

A young woman, about twenty years of age, who had been 
insane but a short time, and appeared to be recovering, after 
having assisted to whitewash and clean a ward in an asylum 
in which she was confined, was sitting, in the evening, taking 
tea with the nurse and several other inmates. She took ad- 
vantage of the opportunity when the nurse went to the cup- 
board for some sugar to seize a knife with which some bread 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 75 

had just been cut ; and in the presence of the whole party^ in 
an instant, before her hand could be arrested».cut her throat 
in so dreadful a manner that she died almost immediately. 

A patient in the Asylum at Wakefield, the wife of a 
labourer, a kind-hearted and clever woman, was afflicted with 
such a propensity to destroy that she was almost constantly 
obliged to be kept in confinement ; and when at liberty, she 
could not resist the pleasure of breaking anything she met 
with. In one instance, she saw some tea-caps on a table, 
and for some time walked backwards and forwards, and 
checked the inclination; but eventually the temptation proved 
too strong, and she swept them at once on to the floor. She 
afterwards regretted the circumstance ; but the impulse was 
too powerfiil to be resisted. 

A monomaniac (says Esquirol) heard a voice within bim 
repeat these words — " Kill thyself 1 kill thyself r He there- 
fore committed suicide, in obedience to this superior power, 
whose order he dare not withstand. 

A man, under a religious hallucination, believed himself to 
be in communication with the Deity. He fancied he heard a 
celestial voice saying — " My san^ come and seat thyself hy my 
side,^ He opened the window to obey the invitation, fell 
down, and fi:Bctured his leg. When he was carried to his 
bed, he expressed the greatest astonishment on finding that 
he had precipitated himself firom the window. 

A young lady of considerable beauty was accosted in the 
street by a strange gentleman. She took no notice at first of 
the unwarrantable liberty ; but on finding that he persisted in 
following her, she attempted, by quickening her pace, to 
escape. Being extremely timid, and having naturally a very 
nervous temperament, she was much excited. The person 
in the garb of a gentleman followed her for nearly a mile, 
and when he saw that she was home, he suddenly turned 
down a street, and disappeared. The young lady expressed 
herself extremely ill soon after she entered the house. A 
physician was sent for, who declared his astonishment at her 



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76 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

severe illness irom a cause so trifling; During the follow- 
ing night she ipanifested indications of mental derangement, 
with a disposition to commit suicide. A strait-waistcoat was 
procured, and all apprehensions of her succeeding in grati- 
fying the propensity of self-destruction was removed. Some 
weeks elapsed before she recovered. To all appearance she 
was perfectly welL She had. no recollection of what had 
transpired, and expressed herself amazed when she was told 
that she had wished to kill herself. Two months after she 
left her bed she was missed. Search was made in every 
direction, but in vain. Aft«r the lapse of two days, she was 
discovered floating in a pond of water several miles from her 
home. In her pocket was discovered a piece of paper, on 
which were written the following lines : — ** Oh, the misery 
and wretchedness I have experienced for the last month no 
one but myself can tell. A demon haunts me — life is insup- 
portable. A voice tells me that I am destined to fall by my 
own hands. I leave this world for another, where I hope to 
enjoy more happiness. Adieu." 

We have no doubt that in this case, although the acute 
symptoms of insanity had subsided, she had not recovered 
completely her sane state of mind. None but those con- 
versant with the subject of mental derangement would believe 
that so trifling a circumstance as that of being spoken to in the 
street would have produced so violent an attack of maniacal 
delirium as was witnessed in the case of this poor girL 

M. Esquirol states that he has never seen an unequivocal 
instance of any individual drawn to the commission of suicide 
by a kind of irresistible impulse, independently of any secret 
grievance, real or imaginary^ Could the secret feelings of 
these suicides be accurately ascertained, there would gene- 
rally, if not always,^ be found some lurking source of dis- 
content, real or fanciftil, in the breast, which serve as 
motives to their suicidal propensity. Many instances are on 
record, it is true, where men have put a period to their 
existence without any apparent visible cause or motive ; but 



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^ IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 77 

as Rousseau has justly observed, ** Le bonheur lia paint 
iTenseiffne exterieur : pour en juffer, ilfaudrait lire dans le cosur 
-de Thomme heureux,^* 

" Individuals," says Esquirol, " who appear outwardly the' 
Tesidence of happiness, are often inwardly the focus of chagrin, 
and tortured with distracting passions. That man can destroy 
his own life, being at the same time happy in his mind, is a 
phenomenon which human reason cannot comprehend." 

A diseased temperament, a serious lesion of one or more of 
the viscera, a gradual exhaustion of the energies of the system, 
may so aggravate the miseries of life as to hasten the period 
of voluntary death. But how are we to account for the irre- 
sistible propensity to suicide which sometimes exists, inde- 
pendent of any apparent mental or physical ailments ? A 
melancholic, whose case was published in Fourcroy's Medicsd 
Journal of 1792, once said, " I am in prosperous circum- 
stances ; I have a wife and a child who constitute my happi- 
ness ; I cannot complain of bad health, and still I feel a hor- 
rible propensity to throw myself into the Seine." His de- 
claration was too fatally verified in the event. Crichton was 
once consulted upon the case of a young man, twenty-four 
years of age, in full vigour and health, who was tormented 
by periodical accessions of these gloomy feelings and propen- 
sities. At those times he meditated his own destruction. 
But on a nearer view of the fatal act, he shrunk back into 
himself, and recoiled with horror fixjm its execution. With- 
out relinquishing his project, he never had the courage to 
accomplish it " It is in cases like these," says Crichton, 
** that energetic measures of coercion, and the effectual ex- 
citement of terror, should lend their aid to the powers of 
medicine and regimen." 

In many cases of suicide, the act is preceded by a long 
train of perverted reasoning. These individuals become taci- 
turn, morose, pusillanimous, and distrustful. The future 
presents itself to their view under the most unfavourable 
aspect, and despair becomes painted on their countenances. 



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78 THB INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

Their eyes become hollow ; they complain of sleeplessness, 
and are disturbed by frightful dreams. The bowels are in an 
inactive state ; the functions of the liver become to a certain 
extent suspended. It is in this state that they contemplate 
the idea of suicide; and the diaries which some have kept of 
their sensations and thoughts disclose the various kinds of 
death which they have contemplated and rejected, one afler 
another, often for reasons the most preposterous and ridicu- 
lous. It is singular that in these journals they generally 
endeavour to hide their despondency and their mental aber- 
ration, while their moral and intellectual weakness is sure 
to be betrayed. They often accuse themselves of insanity, 
and bewail their unhappy lot ; others argue most ingeniously 
in favour of their meditated suicide. Others again, subdued 
as it were by the force of the moral and religious principles 
which they have imbibed, represent to themselves that the 
act they contemplate is contrary to the moral end for which 
man was created — ^fatal to the welfare and happiness of their 
families. Then ensues a conflict in their breasts. If reason 
and religion prevail, the project is abandoned, — sometimes 
abandoned altogether. If otherwise, the suicide is committed. 
Falret knew the case of a woman who exhibited a tendency 
to suicide, but who was delivered for a period from the com- 
mission of the crime by the principles of religion in which 
her mind had been educated. A long period elapsed before 
she could reconcile herself to the act of suicide, and then she 
argued herself into it by the following piece of sophistry : — 
" There are no general rules without exceptions ; and I am 
the precise exception in this case : therefore I may commit 
suicide without violating my religious principles.*' 

Having once conceived the idea of suicide, the mind is 
oft;en rendered so miserable in consequence of it, that the 
person rushes into the arms of death in order to escape 
from the terrible state of anticipation. Others meditate on the 
bloody deed for years. Rousseau, after drawing a piteous 
portrait of his proscribed and solitary condition, and of the 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 79 

State of his health, adds, ** Puisque mon corps rHest plus pour 
mat qu^tcn embarraSy un obstacle a mon reposy cherchons done 
d nCen degager le plus tdt queje pourraV^ 

Tedium vittB^ or ennui^ is said to be a firequeni cause of 
suicide. We have heard of an Englishman who hanged him- 
self in order to avoid the trouble of pulling off and on his 
clothes. Goethe knew a gardener, and the overseer of some 
extensive pleasure-grounds, who once splenetically exclaimed, 
'^ Shall I see these clouds for ever passing, then, from east to 
west?" So singularly developed was this weariness of life, 
this feeling of satiety, in one of our distinguished men, that 
it is said of him that he viewed with dissatisfaction the return 
of spring, and wished, by way of change, that everything 
would, for once, be red instead of green.* 

" — — Within that ample nich, 



With every quaint device of splendour rich, 
Yon phantom, who, from vulgar eyes withdrawn, 
Appears to stretch in one eternal yawn : 
Of empire here he holds the tottering helm, 
Prime-minister in Spleen's discordant realm, 
The pillar of her spreading state, and more, 
Her darling offsprings whom on earth she hore. 
For, as on earth his wayward mother strayed, 
Grandeur, with eyes of fire, her form surveyed. 
And with strong passion starting from his throne, 
Unloosed the sullen queen's reluctant zone. 
From his embrace, conceived in moody joy, 
Rose the round image of a bloated boy : 
His nurse was, Indolence ; his tutor. Pomp, 
Who kept the child from every childish romp. 
They reared their nursling to the bulk you see^ 
And his proud parents called their imp — Ennui.** 

Hayleyh Triumphs of Temper, 

It is rare for an Englishman to commit suicide from ennui. 
The English are different in this respect from the French 
people. The causes which lead to suicide in this country, 

* Lessing. 



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80 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

are tho^ connected with sudden reverse of fortune, or grievous 
disappointments, which are allowed to prey upon the mind 
until the individual seeks relief in the arms of death. In 
great commercial communities, where men may be reduced, 
in a few minutes, from affluence to beggary ; where the hopes 
and aspirations of years are levelled in a moment to the dust, 
and the individual finds himself exposed to the insulting pity 
of fiiends, and the searching curiosity of the public, we need 
not feel surprise, when all these circumstances rush upon 
a man's mind in the sudden convulsion and turbulence of its 
elements, that he should welcome the only escape from the 
abyss into which he has been hurled. 

It has been stated, by a competent authority, that the week 
following the drawing of the last lottery in England, no less 
than fifty suicides were conunitted I 

M. GcLSCy in a memoir read before the Academie Royale 
de Medecine, traces the increase of suicide in Paris to the 
spirit of gambling which the Parisians so passionately in- 
dulge in. The extended system of speculation in this 
country approximates in its pernicious efiects on the con- 
stitution to those which have been considered to result 
from gambling. The following case, which was communi- 
cated to a popular journal, by Dr. J. Johnson, forcibly illus- 
trates how the constitution may be undermined by rash, 
inconsiderate conduct, during the excitement arising from 
temporary circumstances : — 

One day, on the Stock Exchange, when the rumours of 
failings at home and commotions abroad were producing 
such alarming vacillations in the public funds that the whole 
property of a gentleman of high probity, temperance, and re- 
spectability, was in momentary jeopardy, he found himself in 
so terrible a state of nervous agitation that he was obliged to 
leave the scene of conftision, and apply to wine, though quite 
unaccustomed to more than a glass or two after dinner. To 
his utmost surprise, the wine had no apparent effect, though 
he drank glass after glass, in rapid succession, until he had 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 81 

finished a whole bottle. Not the slightest inebriating influ- 
ence was induced by this unusual quantity taken before 
dinner. His nervous agitation was, however, calmed, and he 
went back to the Exchange, and transacted business with 
steadiness, composure, and equanimity. None of the ordinary 
efiects of wine were produced at the time, but a few days 
afterwards he was seized with a severe attack of indigestion, 
a malady by which he had never been previously affected. 
This case shews that although mental agitation masks, or 
even prevents, the usual efiects of wine, and other stimulants, 
at the time, and thus enables, and indeed induces, men to 
take more than under ordinary circumstances, yet the 
ulterior efiects are greatly worse on the constitution than if 
the stimulants had produced the usual excitement at the 
moment of their reception into the stomach. It is thus, we 
have no doubt, that the nervous system of thousands in this 
country is ruined, and, in numerous cases, the seeds of sui- 
cidal derangement sown, and that without the victims being 
conscious of the channel through which they have been 
poisoned. 

Defective education is a firequent cause of suicide. At the 
present day, the ornamental has taken the place of the sub- 
stantial ; the showy and specious, the situation of the solid 
and virtuous. The endowments of the mind and cultivation 
of the heart are forced to yield to the external accomplish- 
ments and graces of the body, and polished manners are too 
generally preferred to sound morals. The importance of 
fashion is inculcated in opposition to reason ; religion is made 
to bow down before the shrine of honour ; and the fear of the 
world is taught to supersede the fear of God. But what 
superstructure can be raised on so sandy a foundation ? It 
can support no incumbent we^ht; and, in consequence, it 
cannot be deemed surprising that an inundation of folly and 
vice, like a sweeping torrent, should bear down all before it. 
The dignity of personal worth and character is a point too 
little considered. Brilliant parts supersede sound judgment ; 



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82 THE INFLUENCE OF CEBTAIN MENTAL STATES 

and disinterested virtue, integrity, and public spirit, are out 
of charaicter in a nation immersed in voluptuousness. Edu- 
cation of a light and frivolous character leads to a vacuity of 
serious thoughts and solid principles of conduct Luxury 
and profligacy, in all ages, have operated injuriously on the 
human mind. Cato the elder observes that there could be 
no friendship in a man whose palate had quicker sensations 
than his brain and heart The man who has no internal 
sources of enjoyment to fly to when others fail, — he whose 
happiness consists in an indulgence in the pleasures of the 
senses, when these ephemeral sources of gratification are 
removed, will, to avoid the vacuum which is made in his 
existence, readily terminate his own life. 

There cannot be a doubt but that the general difiusion of 
knowledge, and the desire to place within the command of the 
humblest person the advantages of education, have not a little 
tended to promote the crime of suicide. It may be opposed 
to all our h priori reasoning to suppose that, in proportion as 
the intellect becomes expanded, knowledge and civilization 
difiused, the desire to commit self-murder would be engendered. 
It is an indisputable fact, that insanity, in all its variations, is in 
a ratio to the refinement and civilization of a country. " It 
is clearly proved," says Brown, " that in Fin6stre, where the 
people are in a deplorable state of ignorance, and education is 
entirely neglected, only twelve in a hundred of the inhabit- 
ants being able to write or read, few suicides occur, at least 
only in the proportion of one in 25,000. In Paris, that focus 
of all that is brilliant and imposing in science and literature, 
the crime is of common occurrence. In Cor6ze, where only 
twelve in the hundred can read or write, one suicide in 
47,000 occurs; and in the High Loire one in 163,000. On 
the other hand, in Oise and Lower Seine, both places in 
possession of the highest degree of general instruction, and of 
the means of advancing in improvement, suicides occur in 
every 5000 or 9000 inhabitants. In the north of France, 
Catholicism has been nearly extirpated, and there suicide and 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 83 

crime predominate; south of the Loire, on the contrary, it 
still retains a strong hold of the affections of the people, and 
there suicide, and its sinister crimes or maladies are compa- 
ratively rare. This affords a noble proof that the effects of 
Christianity, in whatever form and under whatever circum- 
stances, are peace and joy."* 

It is our firm belief that the increase of suicide in this 
country is to a certain extent to be traced to the atrocious 
doctrines promulgated with such zeal by the sect of modem 
infideb, who falsely denominate themselves Socialists; a class 
whose opinions are subversive of all morality and Christianity, 
and which sap the foundation of society itself It is natural 
to expect when such principles of infidelity are inculcated, 
when men are taught to believe in the non-existence of a 
God, and to consider they are not accountable agents, and 
are under the operation of an organization over which they 
have no control, that they should look with philosophic 
indifference on suicide, and consider it as a justifiable mode 
of putting an end to the misery and wretchedness engendered 
by their own opinions. Such doctrines must of necessity be 
productive of great evil to society ; and it becomes the duty 
of every Christian and well-wisher to his fellow-men to hold 
them up to reprobation. The opinions of Owen strike at the 
root of all order, and of all virtue, social and public, and 
break down every barrier of law and restraint, making the 
passions the only standard of right and wrong — the animal 
appetites the only test of virtue and vice. 

In the Bishop of Exeter's able speech in the House of Lords, 
on the subject of Socialism, he stated that cases of suicide under 
circumstances of the most dreadfiil suffering had occurred, 
which had been brought about by Mr. Owen's pernicious 
doctrines. The learned prelate related the particulars of the 
following case : — Mr. Parke, a most respectable inhabitant of 
Wolverhampton, had an apprentice, who had been in the habit 

♦ On Lunatic Asylums. 
g2 



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84 THK INPI.UKNCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

of attending SocialiBts' meetings^ and hearing their lectures. 
He purchased all their publications, and his master's shop not 
being of that kind to furnish them, he was obliged to go 
elsewhere to obtain them. Ue dined and drank tea as usual 
with Mr. Parke on the Sunday, and left after tea to attend 
St George's Church. Not coming home at the usual hour, 
his master sat up for him until 12 o'clock, when, as he had 
not returned, he concluded that his relations had detained 
him. He was, however, found dead, in a sort of lumber room, 
the next morning. Two bottles of poison were lying by his 
side ; the one which occasioned his death contained prussic 
acid; the other, nux vomica : near him were lying four letters, 
one addressed to his father, another to Mr. Parke, a third to 
the jury, and a fourth containing his creed; in all of which he 
expressed bis disbelief in the Bible, considering it ^^ the most 
dangerous book that ever was written," and if ever such a 
person as Jesus Christ lived, he was the weakest man he ever 
heard o£ In one of the letters he also stated that he had 
been nurtured in superstition, (meaning, that he had been 
brought up as a member of the church of England,) and that 
when he read Owen's works he " shuddered at their common 
sense." He denied all belief in a future state of retribution ; 
and as he considered apprenticeship slavery, he thought it 
more prudent to suffer pain for a moment than to endure six 
years' servitude. He earnestly entreated the jury not to bring 
in a verdict of insanity. 

It appears from a letter to the Bishop of Exeter, written by 
the unfortunate youth's uncle, that he had been from infancy 
an exceedingly lively boy ; between him and his parents the 
most glowing affection, as well as the most boundless confi- 
dence, existed ; but the fatal poison of Socialism changed a 
confiding heart into a cold concentration of selfishness. 
Afler the verdict of the jmy, the uncle declared aloud, before 
a crowded room, in a most vehement manner, that, were he in 
the presence of the Queen, he would proclaim Owen as the 
murderer of his nephew. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 85 

The indifFerence with which self-murder is looked at in 
Germany is to be ascribed in a great measure to the popular 
productions of that country. We are reluctant to denounce 
as undoubted causes of suicide the works of men of splendid 
talents ; but in such a case it would be wrong, it would be 
criminal, to mince the matter, and plead any excuse for so 
detestable a work asjj£££|gj:^ which has unhinged the minds 
of thousands, before they were aware of its impoisoned and 
insidious tendency. That it is the work of a man of genius 
only makes its blackening influence the stronger ; as the &s- 
cination of the style, and the intense interest of the narrative, 
operate like an infernal spell to smooth the road to self- 
destruction. Its leading theme is, that human passions, and 
particularly love, are immediately inspired by Heaven ; and 
that it would be wrong — nay, that it is impossible — to 
resist them ; and consequently, if a lover meets with disap- 
pointment, his only virtuous course is suicide, which is 
triumphantly catalogued among the virtues, as it was by the 
heathen morality of the ancients. 

This work, together with Foscolo's imitation of it, the 
" UUime Letters di Jacopo Ortis,^ and all publications of a 
similar character, ought to be repudiated by every sound 
thinking man. Resistance to the dictates of passion, when it 
prompts to crime and suicide, is a most deadly sin against 
Werterism ; whilst, obeying the passions to the letter, even if 
they incite to criminal love or self-murder, gives to its disciple 
the stamp of one of the virtuous who have courageously braved 
the laws of good order, fearlessly dared to trample under foot 
all the commands of God and man, and stood forth as the 
redoubted champions of human supremacy and the glorious 
right of self-destruction. Such are the principles of the mis- 
creants who wish to prove that suicide is a virtue ; and, with 
the sentiments found in the pages of Werter, they rush head- 
long and unthinkingly into a deep and awful futurity. 

It is not generally known that Goethe^ the author of the 
work alluded to, attempted suicide. He considered the death 



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86 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

of the Emperor Otho as worthy of imitation. In contem- 
plating the feelings which influenced that monarch, he says 
he convinced himself that if he could not proceed as Otho had 
done, he was not entitled to resolve on renouncing life. He 
adds, " By this conviction, I saved myself from the purpose, 
or indeed, more properly speaking, from the whim, of suicide. 
Among a considerable collection of arms, I possessed a costly 
well-ground dagger. This I laid down nightly by my side ; 
and, before extinguishing the light, I tried whether I could 
succeed (a la Otho) in sending the sharp point an inch or two 
deep into my heart But as I truly never could succeed, I at 
last took to laughing at myself, threw away all these hypo- 
chondriacal crotchets, and determined to live." 

In the melancholy case of Hackman and Miss Ray, 
the following is the substance of a correspondence which 
passed between them on the subject of Werter. Hackman 
was refiised the sight of this book by Miss R., who had a copy 
of the French translation, because, as she expresses herself, 
she saw too great a ^milarity between her lover and Werter, 
not only in point of situation, but in the impetuosity of their 
tempers. " The book you mention," says Miss R., ** is just 
the only book you should never read. On my knees, I beg 
you never to read it 1 Perhaps you have read it ; perhaps — 
I am distracted I Heaven only knows to whom I may be 
writing this letter." To this, Hackman, who was in Ireland, 
replies: " Nonsense 1 to say it will make me unhappy, or that 
I shall not be able to read it. Must I pistol myself because a 
thick-blooded German has been fool enough to set the ex- 
ample, or because a German novelist has feigned such a 
story." Werter was read, and the eflect was most injurious on 
his mind. Whilst confined in Newgate, he wrote the following 
letter : — " Among my papers you will see, my friend, some 
lines I wrote on reading Goethe's Werter, translated from 
German into French, which, whilst I was in Ireland, Miss R. 
refused to lend me. When I returned to England, I made 
her let me read it. But I never shewed her these lines. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 87 

for fear they should make her uneasy. Unhappy Werter I 
Still less pretence hadst thou for suicide than L After finally 
seeing thy Charlotte married to another — marrying her thy- 
self— hadst thou a right over thy existence, because she was 
not thy wife? Yet wast thou less barbarous than I; for thou 
didst not seek to die in her presence, — ^but neither didst thou 
doubt her love. We can neither of us hope for pardon I" 

The lines were these, supposed to be found, after Werter's 
death, upon the ground by the pistol — 

'* If chance some kindred spirit should relate 
To future times unhappy Werter's fete ; 
Should in some pitying, almost pardoning age, 
Consign my sorrows to some weeping page ; 
And should the affecting page be haply read 
By some new Charlotte — mine will then be dead. 
(Yes ; she shall die — ^sole solace of my love ! 
And we shall meet — for so she said — above. 
O Charlotte ! (Martha— by whatever name, 
Thy feithful Werter hands thee down to feme,) 
O be thou sure thy Werter never knows 
The fatal story of my kindred woes ! 

do not, feir one, — ^by my shocking end 

1 charge thee !— do not let thy feeling friend 
Shed his sad sorrows o*er my tearful tale : 
Example, spite of precept, may prevail." 

It may be mentioned, as a feet corroborating the opinion, 
that productions of an infidel character have a tendency to 
originate a disposition to suicide by weakening the moral prin- 
ciples ; that when the celebrated and notorious Tom P aine's , 
J^Ap;e (rf Reason" was first published, the papers of the day 
recorded many cases of self-murder committed by persons who 
avowed that the idea never entered their heads until they had 
become familiar with the works of the above-mentioned writer. 
An individual, zealous in the difiusion of Paine's principles, 
purchased several hundred copies of his work, which he most 
industriously circulated, gratuitously, in quarters where he 
/ knew the doctrines of Christianity had already obtained a 
footing. A copy of the " Age of Reason," elegantly bound. 



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{ 



/ 88 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

y was received by a young lady who was acting in the capacity 

of a governess in the family of a gentleman of great respecta- 
bility. The lady had no conception from whom the present 
came, and having heard of the book, she felt a curiosity to 
become acquainted with the doctrines which it inculcated. The 
circumstance of her having received the book was not men- 
tioned to any member of the family with whom she resided; and 
in the evening, when she retired to her own room, she read it 
with great attention. The family noticed, in a few weeks, a 
perceptible alteration in the appearance of the young lady. 
She became extremely thoughtful and contemplative. Her 
health also appeared sensibly affected. The mother of the 
children whom she was instructing took advantage of the first 
opportunity of speaking to her on the subject. She expressed 
herself very unhappy in her mind, but refused to disclose the 
cause of her mental uneasiness. It was thought she had 
formed an attachment, and was suffering from the effects of dis- 
appointed affection. She was questioned on these points, but 
persisted in concealing the circumstances which had been 
operating so injuriously on her mind. The mental dejection 
increased, and the result was, an alarming attack of nervous 
fever, of which she was cured by an able physician with 
much difficulty. When convalescent, she was noticed one 
day busily employed in writing, and when interrupted, 
shewed great anxiety to secrete the piece of paper on which 
she had been transcribing her thoughts. In the course of 
the evening of the same day, a deep groan was heard to 
issue from her room. The servant immediately entered, 
when, to her great horror, she saw the governess on the 
floor with a terrible gash in her throat. Assistance was 
directly obtained, but, alas ! not in time to save the life of the 
poor unfortunate girl. On searching her desk, a sheet of 
paper was dicovered, on which she had disclosed her reasons 
for the rash act She said, that from the moment she read 
the " Age of Reason," her mind became unsettled. Her pre- 
vious religious impressions were undermined ; in proportion as 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE, 89 

she was induced to imbibe the doctrines of Tom Paine, so she 
became miserable and wretched. From one error she fell into 
another, until she actually believed that death was annihilation ; 
and although she appeared firmly rooted in this belief, she 
expressed herself horrified beyond all expression at the bare 
idea of dissolution. For some time prior to her illness, she had 
felt an impulse to sacrifice her life, but had not the courage to 
perform the act. After her recovery, she felt the impulse re- 
newed with increased strength, until, with a hope of escaping 
fi-om an accumulation of misery which was weighing her to 
the earth, she determined to commit suicide. She also, in 
the document referred to, asked her friends to forgive her, and 
to take warning from her fate, y^^ 

That many rush into suicide in order to escape the just and 
legal punishment of their crimes cannot be a matter of doubt 
Many under such circumstances are influenced by a fear of 
public exposure, and prefer death to the idea of being com- 
pelled to undergo the ordeal of a trial in a court of justice. 
The following case is but the type of many that could be re 
lated: — 

A young man of family, the Hon. Mr. ^ staying at an 

inn in Portsmouth, previously to sailing for India, where he 

was going out as an aid-de-camp to General , with a 

party of friends, also officers, joined company at supper one 
evening with Mr. Bradbury, the clown of Covent Garden 
Theatre, a person of very gentlemanlike exterior and manners, 
and ambitious of the society of gentlemen. He was in the 
habit of using a very magnificent and curious snuff-box, and 
on this occasion it was much admired by the party, and 
handed round for inspection from one to the other. Mr. 
Bradbury soon after left the inn, and retired to his lodging, 
when he missed his box, and immediately returned to inquire 
for it. The gentlemen with whom he had spent the evening 
had all retired to bed ; but he lefl word with the porter to 
mention to the officers early the next day that he had left the 
box, and to request them to restore it to him when found. 



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90 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

The next morning, Mr. Bradbury again hastened to the inn» 
anxious to recover his property, and met on his way the Hon. 

Mr. y and communicated his loss to him ; when he was 

informed by that gentleman that a similar circumstance had 
occurred to himself, his bed-room having been robbed the 
night before of his gold watch, chain, and seals, &c., and that 
he was on his way to a Jew in the town to apprize him of the 
robbeiy, in order that if such articles should be offered for 
sale, he might stop them and detain the person who presented 
them. This was very extraordinary I Mr. Bradbury then 
met the other gentlemen of the party, and was told by them 
that their rooms had also been robbed, one of bank notes to a 
great amount, another of a gold watch, &c. 

The Hon. Mr. was violently infiiriated by his loss ; 

and as he was bound to sail from Portsmouth when the 
ship was ready, he naturally dreaded being compelled to de- 
part without his property. He hinted, too, that he had cer- 
tain suspicions of certain people. An officer was sent for 
fix)m London. This man came down promptly, to the great 

satisfaction of the Hon. Mr. ; and after searching the 

house and their trunks, Rivett (the officer) addressed the 
gentlemen, observing, that there was yet a duty unperformed, 
and which was a painful one to him — he must search the 

persons of all present, and as the Hon. Mr. 's trunks had 

been the first to be inspected, perhaps he would allow him to 
examine him at once. To this he agreed; but the next 
moment he was observed to look very ilL Rivett was pro- 
ceeding to search him, as a matter of course, when he 
requested that everybody would leave the room, except the 
officer and Mr. Bradbury, which request was immediately 
complied with. He then fell upon his knees, entreated for 
mercy, and placed Mr. Bradbury's box in his hand, be^ng 
him to forgive him and spare his life. Rivett upon this pro- 
ceeded to search him, but he resisted; the object was effected 
by force, and the greater part of the property found that had 
been stolen in the house. The officer, conceiving that he 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 91 

had not got the whole of the bank notes, inquired of Mr. 

where the remainder was ; when he pointed to a pocket-book 
which was under the foot of the bed; and while Rivett 
relaxed his hold of him, and was in the act of stooping to 

pick up the book, Mr. caught up a razor and cut his 

throat Rivett and Mr. Bradbury seized an arm each, and 
forced the razor from him ; but he was so determined on self- 
destruction, that he twisted his head about violently in dif- 
ferent ways, in order to make the wound larger and more 
fatal. To prevent him from continuing this, he was braced 
up with linen round his neck so tightly that he could not 
move it A surgeon of the town, with two assistants, came, 
and after seeing the wound, gave it as their opinion that it 
was possible for him to recover, and by the assistance of some 
powerful soldiers holding him, they dressed the wound. His 
clothes were then cut off, and he was carried down stairs into 
another room. During this operation he coughed violently ; 
but whether naturally or by design, to make his wound worse, 
was not ascertained. It had, however, the effect of setting 
his wound bleeding again, and the dressing was obliged to 
be repeated. 

The sequel of this distressing case was of an equally melan- 
choly character. 

Poor Mr. Bradbury was standing close to the unfortunate 
young man when he committed the sudden attempt upon his 
own Ufe. The horror of the act, and the shocking appear- 
ance of his lacerated throat, the blood from which flowed out 
upon Mr. Bradbury, in short, this heart-rending result of the 
previous agitation and discovery, acted upon the sensibility of 
Mr. Bradbury to such an extent as to deprive him of reason. 
This fact was noticeable two days after the above scene, by 
his entering a church, and after the service was ended, going 
into the vestry, and requesting the clergyman to pray for him, 
as he intended to cut his throat ! This distemper of mind 
was not too great at first to admit of partial control ; but it 



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92 THB INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL 8TATE8 

daily increased^ and ultimately caused him to be placed under 
restraint* 

A woman, about thirty-six years of age, who had been well 
educated, but whose conduct had not been exempt from some 
irregularities, in consequence of intemperance and manifold 
disappointments, became affected with madness. She was 
by turns furious and melancholic, and conceived she had 
murdered one of her children, for which she ought to suffer 
death. She detailed the manner in which she had destroyed 
the child, and the motives which actuated her, so circiim- 
stantially, and with so much plausibility and feeling, that if it 
had not been known that her child was living, the physician 
under whose care she was placed might have been deceived. 
By her own hands she had repeatedly endeavoured to termi- 
nate her existence, but was prevented by constant vigilance 
and due restraint. Her disposition to suicide was afterwards 
relinquished ; but she still persisted that for the murder of the 
child she ought to suffer death, and requested to be sent to 
Newgate, in order to be tried, and undergo the sentence of 
the law ; indeed, she appeared to derive consolation from the 
hope of becoming a public example, and expiating her sup- 
posed crime on the scaffold. While in this state, and with a 
hope of convincing her of its safety, the child was brought to 
visit her. When she beheld it, there was a temporary burst 
of maternal affection ; she kissed it, and for a few moments 
appeared to be delighted: but a look of suspicion quickly 
succeeded, and this was shortly followed by a frown of indig- 
nation, which rendered the removal of the child a measure of 
wholesome necessity. Perhaps in no instance was the buoy- 
ancy of madness more conspicuous over reason, recollection, 
and feeling. She insisted they had attempted to impose on 
her a strange child, which bore a faint resemblance to her 
own; however, by such subterfuges she was not to be de- 

* Vide Mathews' Life, by his Widow, vol. ii. p. 158. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 93 

ceived ; she had strangled the child until life had totally de- 
parted, and it was not in the order of nature that it should 
exist again. The effect of this interview was an exasperation 
of her disorder: she became more cunning and malignant, 
and her desire for an ignominous death was augmented. To 
render this more certain, and accelerate her projected happi- 
ness, she enticed into her apartment a young female patient 
to whom she appeared to be attached, and having previously 
platted some threads of her bed-quilt into a cord, she fixed it 
round the neck of the young woman, and proceeded to 
strangle her. Fortunately, some person entered the room and 
unloosed the cord in time to save her. When this unhappy 
maniac was questioned concerning the motive which induced 
her to attempt the destruction of a person for whom she had 
manifested kindness, she very calmly repUed, that as the 
murder of her own child was disbelieved, she wished to ex- 
hibit a convincing proof of the ferocity of her nature, that she 
might instantly be conveyed to Newgate and hanged, which 
she desired as the greatest blessing. With considerable satis- 
faction, we may add, that in a few months, notwithstanding her 
derangement had been of three years' duration, this woman 
perfectly recovered, and for a considerable time performed the 
duties of an important and respectable oflSce.* 

The great increase of the crime of suicide has been referred 
by many able physicians of the present day to the poUtical 
excitement to which the minds of the people have been ex- 
posed of late years. In despotic countries, suicide and in- 
sanity are seldom heard of: the passions are checked by the 
nature of the government ; the imagination is not elevated 
to an unhealthy standard; every man is compelled to follow 
the calling in life to which he is bom, and for which he has 
capacity ; and on this account the evil and corrupt disposi- 
tions of the mind are, to a certain extent, kept in abeyance. 

• Dr. Haslam. 



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94 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

In republican governmentSy the greatest latitude is allowed to 
the turbulent passions ; all mankind are theoretically placed 
on an equality ; the man whose ** talk is of bullocks" con- 
siders himself as fit to carry on the complicated business of 
government as he whose education, associations, and experi- 
ence tend to qualify him for the duties of a l^islator. 

In proportion as men are exposed to the influence of causes 
which excite the passions, so will they become predisposed to 
mental derangement in all its forms. The French and 
American revolutions increased considerably the crime of 
suicide. It has been said that during the ** reign of terror" 
statistical evidence does not shew that self-murder was more 
common than at any other period. Perhaps the alleged un- 
frequency of suicide may be attributed to the circumstance of 
the French people having been so busy in killing others that 
they had no time to think of killing themselves. More than 
the average number of suicides may not have really occurred 
during the crisis of the Revolution, but it is an undisputed 
fact that, both before and after that political convulsion, self- 
destruction prevailed to an alarming extent Disappointed 
hopes, wounded pride and vanity, blighted ambition, loss of 
property, death of friends, disgust of life, all came into active 
operation after the turbulence and bloodshed of the Revolution 
had somewhat subsided : these passions, working upon minds 
easily excited, and not under the benign influence of religion, 
it was almost natural to expect that great recklessness of life 
should be exhibited. Such facts demonstrate to us the folly 
of uselessly exciting the passions of the people, and raising in 
their minds exaggerated expectations from political changes. 

The tendency of refined sensibility to become wound up in 
a paroxysm, terminating in suicidal attempts, is strikingly 
illustrated in a case reported by Dr. Burrows : — 

" A gentleman of a family of rank, and distinguished for 
talent, married early in life the object of his most ardent aflec- 
tions. He possessed extreme sensibility, with a most highly 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 95 

cultivated and refined mind. It may be remarked, as a consti- 
tutional peculiarity, that his natural pulse did not exceed forty 
beats in a minute. When anything suddenly occurred to 
agitate him, it produced an attack of fever, and his pulse was 
accelerated in an astonishing degree. Though in ordinary 
affairs he was a man of firm resolution and great spirit, yet 
when this fit happened, he was seized with such a panic, or im- 
pulse, that he knew not what he did, and he was unnerved 
for days. His lady being well acquainted with the infirmities 
of his constitution, rendered him, by her good sense and 
soothing, a happier man than he had previously been. Most 
unfortunately, she died in the first year of her marriage. His 
grief at her loss was excessive; and even when time had 
abated its poignancy, he continued very miserable. His 
thoughts were always reverting to the virtues of her whom he 
had lost, and the comparative happiness he had enjoyed in her 
society. He tried everything to divert his melancholy ; but 
these impulses would follow reflection; and then his ideas 
adverted to self-destruction. He reasoned with himself upon 
the subject till, he confessed, he had become an infidel in 
religion, and could no longer view the act as wicked. I had," 
said Dr. Burrows, " an opportunity of knowing the exact state 
of his mind during this struggle, fi^om perusing some notes 
which he had written, describing it He expressed himself 
with the utmost tenderness and affection with respect to his 
departed wife, and of his intention of soon joining her by a 
voluntary death ; not, however, in heaven, but in Elysium. 
One night, after having been occupied in reading to some 
dear relations, and apparently much enjoying the subject, he 
retired to his chamber. He undressed, and dismissed his 
valet His gloomy reflections recurred. One of these 
strange impulses came over him. He seized a pistol, and 
discharged it: it failed of effect. He fired another: he 
wounded himself severely, but not mortally ; neither was the 
eflusion of blood great He then called for assistance. Little 



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96 THB INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

constitutional disturbance followed, and the wound readily 
healed. It was during the time he was confined firom the 
efiects of this wound that Dr. Burrows was consulted. He 
could not detect the slightest aberration of the mind, nor was 
there a trait in his countenance of a propensity to commit 
suicide. He fi-eely conversed on his past and present situa- 
tion and opinions; was perfectly ready to submit to any 
supervision Dr. Burrows might advise, or plan that might be 
suggested, to bring him into a better and happier state of 
mind. By degrees, he acquired more composure. He after- 
wards travelled for a year and a half on the Continent Upon 
his return, he seemed much improved in general appearance. 
Nothing, however, conquered his constitutional susceptibility." 

That the love of notoriety often impels to suicide there 
cannot be a doubt The man who was killed by attaching 
himself to a rocket, and he who threw himself into the crater 
of Mount Vesuvius, were, no doubt, stimulated by a desire for 
posthumous &me. Shortly after the suicide at the Monument, 
a boy made an unsuccessfiil endeavour to poison himself; and 
on being questioned as to his motives, he said, ** I wished to 
be talked of, like the woman who killed herself at the Monu- 
ment I" How strange and anomalous are the motives which 
influence human actions 1 

Many are induced to think of suicide firom the circum- 
stance of their being conscious that they labour under an 
hereditary disposition to insanity. We know the case of a lady 
whose mind has been dwelling upon the subject of suicide for 
some time, and she has told her friends repeatedly that she 
feels assured she shall commit some rash act " The dispo- 
sition to suicide and insanity is in the family, and how can I 
fight against my physical organization ?" Such is the mode 
of reasoning she adopts whenever urgently persuaded to 
banish fi*om her mind the horrid sensations which are embit- 
tering her life. 

A gentleman, in full possession of his reasoning faculties^i 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 97 

and a man of considerable powers of intellect^ said to us one 
day, in a conversation we had with him on the subject of sui- 
cide, " You may probably smile when I tell you that, happy 
and contented as I appear to be in my mind at this moment, 
I feel assured I shall fall by my own hands." Upon our asking 
him why he thought so, he replied, that a relation of his had 
killed himself some years previously, and that he laboured under 
an hereditary predisposition which nothing would subdue. 

A woman, thirty-five years of age, placed herself, in 1821, 
under the care of M. Falret, for symptoms of phthisis. When 
nineteen years old, the death of an uncle, by his own hands, 
made a deep impression on her mind. She heard that in- 
sanity was hereditary, and the idea pursued her that she 
should one day fall into this melancholy condition. She con- 
fessed her apprehensions only to the priests, who endea- 
voured to dissipate the mournful impression. In this state she 
continued for two years, when the death of her reputed 
father, also by suicide, riveted the conviction on her mind 
that her own doom was sealed. She was convinced that her 
blood was corrupted; and this idea appeared to be confirmed 
by other circumstances. Tortured by this notion, she re- 
solved to drown herself After leaving a letter in her cham- 
ber, apprising her friends of the manner of her meditated 
death, she plunged into the river; but being immediately 
taken out, she was restored to life. The night following this 
attempt, she was harassed with a pain in her head, and after 
a short sleep, awoke, incapable of recognising any of the 
friends about her. She was evidently delirious, but made no 
allusion to her former melancholy impressions. Although pre- 
viously religious and well-behaved, she uttered nothing but 
obscenities. This delirious excitement continued three days, 
and was succeeded by melancholy and a disposition to suicide. 
Headache again came on, with nausea and bilious vomitings, 
which, however, soon subsided. She became considerably 
emaciated after this, and looked the picture of despair ; in 

H 



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98 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIK MENTAL STATES 

fiicty she could not look into the glass at herself without teiron 
Once more she wished the aid of religion, which afforded her 
some consolation, but was insufficient to dissipate entirely her 
sufferings. Meanwhile, her mother reTealed to her the secret 
that her real father was still alive; and, after considerable 
scepticism on the point, she consented to an interview with 
him. The physical resemblance was so striking, that all 
doubt was instantly removed from her mind From that mo- 
ment all idea of suicide vanished; her spirits and health 
became progressively re-established. Fourteen years, says 
Falret, have now elapsed since the attempt at self-destruction. 
She is the mother of three children, and, during her married 
state, has been reduced to the greatest penury and distress ; 
but has never, since the period alluded to, entertained the 
remotest idea of suicide; on the contrary, she has proved an 
exemplary wife and affectionate parent, having the full pos« 
session of her intellectual faculties.* 

Everything that tends to throw the mind off its healthy 
balance will, of course, predispose to suicide. Excessive de- 
votion of the attention to any particular branch of study, or 
to business, often originates cerebral disease and suicidal 
mania. In aUuding to the injurious effects of excessive study, 
Marcilius Ficinus, as quoted by Burton, justly observes — 
^' Other men look to their tools : a painter will wash his 
pencils ; a smith will look to his hammer, anvil, and forge ; a 
husbandman will mend his plough-irons and grind his hatchet, 
if it be dull; a falconer or huntsman will have an especial care 
of his hawks, hounds, horses, and dogs ; a musician will string 
and unstring his lute, — only scholars neglect that instrument 
(their brcdn and spiritf I mean) which they daily use, and by 
which they range over all the world, and which by much study 
is consumed." 

The melancholy case of William Eyton Tooke, Esq., who 

• '< Revue M^dicale," Dec. 1821. 



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IN INDUCmO THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE* 99 

committed suicide some years ago^ will illustrate the operation 
of the cause referred to. 

'^ This gentleman/' says a relative, in a letter to the THme$ 
newspaper, explanatory of the causes of Mr. T.'s death, ''from 
a very early period of life, devoted himself to the most ab* 
struse inquiries into moral and political philosophy, and has 
thus fiJlen a victim to the absorbing and exclusive nature of 
the pursuit'' One of the witnesses who was examined at 
the inquest stated, that the deceased was of an exceedingly 
studious turn, and had for many months past been directing 
his attention particularly to commercial subjects. This sub- 
ject was his constant study, and the theme of his conveisar 
tion. It seemed to engross the whole of his attention, and 
his health, both bodily and mentally, was evidently impaured 
by it A short period before his death, he was heard fre- 
quently to say, placing his hand upon his head, " This sub- 
ject is too much for me; my head is distracted I** It was 
under the influence of this over-excited state of brain that he 
committed suicide. 

It has been observed, in another part of this work, that 
many commit suicide from the notion that death from natural 
causes is attended with considerable agony.* This is the 
generally received notion, but it is an erroneous one. Those 
who have often witnessed the act of dying allow that it is not. 
a painful process. In some delicate and irritable persons, a 
kind of stru^le is indeed sometimes excited when respiration 
becomes difficult; but more frequently the dying obviously 
suffer nothing, and express no uneasiness. Dr. Ferriar says, 
" In those who die of chronic diseases, the gradation is slow 
and distinct Consumptive patients are sometimes in a dying 

• Under the heathen mythology, it was believed that the struggles of death 
continued till Proserpine had cropped the hair on the crown of the head, as 
victims were treated at the altar. Virgil has preserved this opinion in the 
fourth book of the JEneid, where he gives so fine a picture of the dying 
agonies of Dido, 

h2 



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100 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

State for several days; they' appear at such times to suffei 
little, but to languish for complete dissolution ; nay, I have 
known them express great uneasiness when they have been 
recalled from the commencement of insensibility, by the cries 
of their friends, or the efforts of the attendants to aUeviate 
pain. In observing persons in this situation, I have always 
been impressed with an idea that the approach of natural 
death produces a sensation similar to that of fiJling asleep. 
The disturbance of respiration is the only apparent source of 
uneasiness to the dying; and sensibility seems to be impaired 
just in proportion to the decrease of that function. Besides, 
both the impressions of present objects and those recalled by 
memory are influenced by the extreme debility of the patient, 
whose wish is for absolute rest I could never see the close 
of life under these circumstances without recollecting those 
beautiful lines of Spencer — 

** Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas. 
Ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please/' 

Professor Hufeland, on the subject of death, observes, "that 
many fear death less than the operation of dying.** People, 
he continues, *^form the most singular conceptions of the last 
struggle — ^the separation of the soul from the body, and the 
like ; but this is all void of foundation. No man certainly 
ever felt what death is ; and insensibly as we enter life, equally 
insensibly do we leave it The beginning and the end are 
here united. My proofe are as follows : — First, man can have 
no sensation of dying ; for to die means nothing more than 
to lose the vital powers ; and it is the vital power which is the 
medium of communication between the soul and the body. In 
proportion as the vital power decreases, we lose the power of 
sensation and consciousness ; and we cannot lose life without, 
at the same time, or rather before, losing our vital sensation, 
which requires the assistance of the tenderest organs. We 
are taught also by experience that all those who ever passed 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 101 

through the first stage of deaths and were again brought to 
life, unanimously asserted that they felt nothing of dying, but 
sunk at once into a state of insensibility.* 

" Let us not be led into a mistake by the convulsive throbs, 
the rattling in the throat, and the apparent pangs of death, 
which are exhibited by many persons when in a dying state. 
These symptoms are painful only to the spectators, and not to 
the dying, who are not sensible of them. The case here is 
the same as if one, from the dreadful contortions of a person 
in an epileptic fit, should form a conclusion respecting his 
internal feelings : from what afiects us so much, he suflfers 
nothing. 

'^ Let one always consider life, as it really is, a mean state^ 
which is not an object itself but a medium for obtaining an 
object, as the multifarious imperfections of it sufficiently prove : 
as a period of trial and preparation, a fragment of existence, 
through which we are to be fitted for, and transmitted to, 
other periods. Can the idea, then, of really making this 
transition — of ascending to another firom this mean state, this 
doubtfiil, problematical existence, which never affords complete 
satisfaction — ever excite terror ? With courage and confidence 
we may, therefore, resign ourselves to the will of that Supreme 

• It is only by reasoning physiologically that we can conclude that the act 
of dying is not a painful process. In proportion as death seizes its victim, so 
must consciousness be suspended. What can be more painful to thebeholHer 
than to witness the convulsive struggles, and the foaming at the mouth, of 
a person in an epileptic fit, who, when restored to consciousness, has no 
recollection of what has occurred ? He remembers the premonitory indica- 
tions, and that is all. Death is but an epileptic struggle. A phenomenon 
attends the dying moment which we do not recollect to have seen noticed. 
A man who fell into the water, and who rose several times to the sur&ce, had 
a consciousness of the hopelessness and awfulness of his situation ; he felt 
that death was inevitable. With this conviction on his mind, he saw pre- 
sented to him a picture of his past life ; the minutest action in which he 
had been engaged was brought in a kind of tableau before him. Circum- 
stances that had long been forgotten were conjured from his brain, and he 
had a bird's-eye view of his past career. Possibly, this may occur to every 
person at the moment of dying. The expressions of those placed under such 
circumstances would indicate as much. 



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102 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

Being wbo^ without our consent, placed us in this sublunary 
theatre, and give up to his management the future direction 
of our fate. 

** Remembrance of the past, of that circle of friends who 
were nearest, and always will be dearest to our hearts, and 
who, as it were, now smile upon us with a friendly look of 
invitation fit>m that distant country beyond the grave, will 
also tend very much to allay the fear of death." 

We recollect attending the case of a young lady labour- 
ing under a disease which produced extreme mental and 
physical suffering, who exhibited, a short period before her 
death, some singular phenomena. This lady had not been 
seen to smile, or to shew any indication of freedom from 
pain, for some weeks prior to dissolution. Two hours be- 
fore she died, the symptoms became suddenly altered in 
character. Eveiy sign of pain vanished; her limbs, from 
being subject to violent spasmodic contractions, became natural 
in their appearance ; her &ce, which had been distorted, was 
calm and tranquil All her friends supposed that the crisis 
of the disease had arrived, and that it had taken a favourable 
turn, and delight and joy were manifested by all who were 
allowed access to her chamber, and who were made acquainted 
with the change which had taken place. She conversed most 
freely, and smiled as if in a happy condition. We must con- 
fess that the case puzzled us, and that we were for a short time 
induced to entertain sanguine hopes of her ultimate recovery. 
But, alas I how fi^ile are all our best hopes I For two hours 
we sat by the bed, watching the patient's countenance with 
great anxiety. Every unfavourable indication had vanished ; 
her face was illuminated by the sweetest smile that ever played 
on the human countenance. During the conversation we had 
with her, she gave a slight start, and said, in a tone of great 
earnestness, "Did you see that?" Her fece became sud- 
denly altered ; an expression of deep anguish fixed itself upon 
her features, and her eyes became more than ordinarily bril- 
liant. We replied, " What ?" She answered, " Oh ! you must 



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IN INDUCmO THE DISPOSITION TO SITICIDE. 103 

have seen it How terrible it looked as it glided over the bed. 
Again I see it/' she vociferated^ with an unearthly scream, 
'^ I am ready I ^ and, without a groan, her spirit took its 
flight! 

Dr. Symonds recollects to have heard a young man, who 
had been but little conversant with any but civic scenes, dis- 
course most eloquently, a short period before his death, of 
sylvan glen and bosky dells, purling streams and happy val- 
leys, as if his spirit had been already luxuriating itself in the 
gardens of Elysium. Nothing more frequently prc^osticates 
the approach of death than the appearance of a spectre at the 
bedside of the patient In some cases, the mind, when in a 
happy frame, dwells with delight on the contemplation of the 
last struggle, and has a foretaste of that heavenly joy which 
is the reward of a well-spent life. The spirits of good men 
and of angels are said to hover round the departing soul of 
the Christian, as if waiting to bear it to the mansions of 
bliss : — 

'^ Saw you not eren now a blessed troop 
In?ite me to a banquet, whose bright feces 
Cast thousand beams upon me, like the sun ? 
They promised me eternal happiness ; 
And brought me garlands, Griffith, which I feel 
I am not worthy yet to wear." 

Kihg Henry VIII. 

Many have, under the notion that the fear of death is bene* 
ficial to the mind, done their best to keep the idea constantly 
before them. 

** If I must die, I'll snatch at anything 
That may but mind me of my latest breath; 
Death's-heads, graves, knells, blacks, tombs, all these shall bring 
Into my soul such useful thoughts of death. 
That this sable king of fears 
Shall not catch me unawares." 

Toung raised about him an artificial idea of death; he 
darkened his sepulchral study, placing a skull on his table 
by lamp-light At the end of an avenue in his garden was 



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104 THE INFLUENCE. OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

placed on a seat an admirable chiaro-oscuro, which when 
approached presented only a painted sur&ce^ with an in- 
scription, alluding to the deception of the things of this 
world. 

Dr. J. Donne, the celebrated English divine and poet, is said 
to have longed for the hour of dissolution. Previous to his deaths 
he gave instructions for a monument, which his friends had de- 
clared their intention to erect to his memory, A carver made 
him in wood the figure of an urn, and having secured the ser- 
vices of a painter, the Doctor ordered the urn to be brought 
into his chamber. Having taken off his clothes, he procured a 
white sheet, which was put on him, and tied with knots at his 
hands and feet In this state he stood upon the urn, with his 
eyes closed, and a portion of the sheet turned aside in order 
to shew his lean, pale, and death-like &ce. In this posture, the 
painter sketched him ; and when the monument was finished^ 
it was placed by his bed-side, and was hourly the source of 
contemplation until his death. 

The "lightening up before death," so often perceptible, is 
but the result of venous blood beingsent to the brain. When 
respiration becomes imperfect, the blood does not undergo 
the proper chemical change in the lungs (arterialization), and 
its effect on the sentient organ is such as is occasionally 
witnessed prior to dissolution. Abemethy considers the sen- 
sations of the dying similar to those experienced by persons 
labouring under delirium. He relates the case of a man who 
appeared, during his delirious state, to meet vdth old acquaint- 
ances. The companions of his youthful days flocked once 
more around him — old associations were revived. " How 
are you, my dear fellow ?" he exclaimed. ^* It is long since we 
met. Give us your fist, my hearty. Now, that is a good joke; 
I never heard a better. Ah ! ah ! ah I" 

We had once the painful duty of watching the expiring 
struggles of a man whose life had been one long career of vice 
and debauchery. His death was truly apalling . It was 
evident, from the expressions which escaped him when dying. 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 105 

that his mind had a vivid conception of the scenes In which 
he had played so conspicuous a part. " Now for the dice I" he 
exclaimed^ with the fury of a maniac. "That's mine ! No ! all, 

all is gone ! More wine, d you ; more wine ! Oh ! how 

they rattle! Fiends, fiends, assail me! I say, you cheat! 
the cards are marked! Now the chains rattle! O death I 
O death !" and with a terrific groan he breathed his last 

Among the causes which operate in producing the disposi- 
tion to commit suicide, we must not omit to mention those 
connected with erroneous religious notions. M. Falret justly 
remarks, that the religious system of. the Druids, Odin, and 
Mahomet, by inspiring a contempt for death, have made many 
suicides. The man who believes that death is an eternal 
sleep, scorns to hold up against calamity, and prefers annihi- 
lation. The sceptic also often firees himself by self-destruction 
firom the agony of doubting. The maxim of the Stoics, that 
man should live only so long as he ought, not so long as he is 
able, is, we may observe, the very parent of suicide. The 
Brahmin, looking on death as the very entrance into life, and 
thinking a natural death dishonourable, is eager at all times to 
get rid of life. The Epicureans and Peripatetics ridiculed 
suicide, as being death caused by fear of death. M. Falret, 
however, goes perhaps too far when he asserts that the noble 
manner in which the gladiators died in public, not only fami- 
liarized the Romans with death, but rendered the thoughts of 
it rather agreeable than otherwise. 

Misinterpretations of passages of scripture will sometimes 
lead those who are piously inclined to commit suicide. M. 
Gillet hung himself at the age of seventy-five, having left in 
his own handwriting the following apology: — " Jesus Christ 
has said, that when a tree is old and can no longer bear finiit, 
it is good that it should be destroyed." (He had more than 
once attempted his life before the fatal act) Dr. Burrows 
attended a nobleman who, for fear of being poisoned, though 
he pretended it was in imitation of our Saviour's fast, took 



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106 THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES 

nothing but strawberries and water for three weeks, and these 
in very moderate quantities. He never voluntarily abandoned 
his resolution. He was at length compelled to take some 
nutriment, but not until inanition had gone too far; and he 
died completely attenuated. When sound religious principles 
produce a stru^le in the mind which is beginning to aberrate, 
the contest generally ends in suicide. 

Some murder themselves to get rid of the horrid thoughts 
of suicide; whilst others brood over them like Rousseau, 
for months and for years, and at length perpetrate the very 
action which they dread. A countryman of Rousseau's, who 
advocated suicide as a duty, and who spent the greater part 
of a long life in writing a large folio volume to prove the 
soundness of his doctrine, thought it his duty, after he had 
completed his work, to give a practical illustration of his 
principles, and, accordingly, at the age of seventy, threw him- 
self into the Lake of Geneva, and was drowned. 

It may appear strange that religion, the greatest blessing 
bestowed by Heaven on man, should ever prove a cause of one 
of his severest calamities. But perhaps it wouI4 be more 
accurate to impute such unhappy effects to fanaticism, or to the 
total want of religion. 

Instances very frequently occur in practice in which 
patients have appeared, some suddenly, and others gradually, 
to be seized with a species of religious horror, despairing of 
salvation, asserting that they had committed sins which never 
could be forgiven, who had never previously appeared to be 
under religious impressions. Some of these have been visited 
by divines of various denominations, and been induced to 
hear sermons and read books well calculated to dispel gloomy 
apprehensions, and excite religious hope and confidence. 
With some this has succeeded, especially when conjoined with 
medical aid ; but it has been observed, that in the cases of 
those who have recovered, the patients have emerged precisely 
as they immerged; for as they before were unconcerned about 



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IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE. 107 

religious matters^ so they remained after their recovery ; thus 
the indisposition has been very erroneously imputed to religion 
when it has no kind of affinity to, or concern with it Such 
cases almost invariably exhibit the same symptoms, which 
generally turn on these points — despair of temporal support, 
or despair of final salvation. But the medical practitioner, 
and not the divine, is the proper person to be consulted in 
such cases ; and, however the mind may be afiected in them, 
the patient is to be relieved by means of medicine. It may 
be added, that the agonies of mind under which some persons 
labour who are called fanatically mad arise £rom a sense of 
moral turpitude, independent of any peculiar religious tenets 
or opinions. 

The true doctrines of Christianity, when properly inculcated, 
never excite a gloomy state of mind. " To be religious," says 
South, " it is not necessary to be dull." Cowper (perhaps, 
however, the most miserable and melancholy of men) beauti- 
fully says — 

" True piety is cheerful as the day, 
Will weep indeed, and heave a pitying groan, 
For others' woes, but smile upon her own.'' 



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108 



CHAPTER V, 

IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 

Persons who act from impulse liable to be influenced — Principle of imitation, 
a natural instinct — Cases related by Cabanis and Tissot — The suicidal 
barbers — Epidemic suicide at the HotSl des Invalids — Sydenham's 
epidemic — The ladies of Miletus — Dr. Parrish's case — Are insanity aud 
suicide contagious ? 

The most singular feature connected with the subject of 
suicide is^ that the disposition to sacrifice life has^ at different 
periods, been known to prevail epidemically, from a perver- 
sion, as it has been supposed, of the natural instinct of imita- 
tion. This is not only the case with reference to suicide, but 
is witnessed also in cases of murder. The atrocities of the 
French Revolution are, to a certain extent, to be traced to 
the influence of this imitative principle. Persons whose feel- 
ings are not thoroughly under their command, who act from 
impulse and not from reflection, are very prone to be 
operated upon by the cause referred to. Man has been de- 
fined an imitative animal ; and in many instances we witness 
this propensity controlling almost irresistibly the actions of 
the individual. Tissot relates the case of a young woman 
in whom this faculty was so strongly developed that she 
could not avoid doing everything she saw others do. Cabanis 
gives the account of a man in whom the tendency to imitate 
was so strongly marked, and active, from disease, that ** he 
experienced insupportable suffering" when he was prevented 



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IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 109 

ifrom yielding to its impulses. A woman, in the ward of an 
hospital, will be seized with an epileptic fit ; in the course of 
a short period, other cases will occur in the same ward. A 
child was brought into one of our metropolitan hospitals, 
labouring under a violent attack of convulsions. She had not 
been in the house five minutes before three children who 
were present were seized with spasmodic convulsions of a 
similar character. The commission of a great and extra- 
ordinary crime produces not unfirequently the mania of imi- 
tation in the district in which it happened. A criminal was 
executed at Paris, not many years ago, for iriurder. A 
few weeks afterwards, another murder was perpetrated ; and 
when the young man was asked to assign a reason for taking 
away the life of a fellow-creature, he replied, that he was 
not instigated by any feeling of malice, but, after having 
witnessed the execution, he felt a desire, over which he had 
no control, to commit a similar crime, and had no rest until 
he had gratified his feelings. It is only on the same principle 
that we can account for the following singular case of suicide. 
It is related by Sir Charles Bell, in his " Institutes of Sur- 
gery." The surgeon of the Middlesex Hospital who pre- 
ceded Sir Charles Bell went into a barber's shop, in the 
neighbourhood of the institution, to be shaved. As the 
barber Was operating upon his chin, the conversation turned 
upon the case of a man who had been admitted the previous 
day into the hospital, and who had attempted, unsuccessfully, 
to kill himself, by cutting his throat *^ He could easily have 
managed it," said the surgeon, in rather a jocular strain, 
** had he been acquainted with the situation of the carotid 
artery. He did not cut in the proper place." "Where 
should he have cut?" asked the barber, quietly. The sur- 
geon, not suspecting what was passing through the barber's 
mind, gave a popular lecture on the anatomy of the neck — 
pointed out the exact position of the large vessels, and shewed 
where they could easily be wounded. After the conversation, 
the barber made some excuse for leaving the room ; and, not 



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110 IMITATIYBy OR EPIDEMIC 8UICIDE. 

returning as soon as was expected, the surgeon went to look 
for him, when he was discovered in the yard, behind the 
house, with his head nearly severed from his body I 

The following case is, perhaps, niore strange and inexplicable 
than the one just related. The brother of a hairdresser and 
barber had killed himself by blowing out his brains. The 
circumstance appeared to affect seriously the mind of his 
relative. He left his business for a few days; and then 
returned, apparently more tranquil in his mind. In the 
morning, several persons came in to be shaved; and, all at 
once, he felt a strong, and almost overwhelming, inclination 
to cut some one's throat He fought manfully, however, 
against this horrid desire. During the whole of the earlier 
part of the day, he had been able to resist the gratification of 
the feeling. Every time he placed the razor in contact with 
the throat, he fancied he heard a voice within him exclaim, 
<' Kill him I kill him I" In the afternoon, an elderly gentle- 
man came into the shop to be shaved; and when the barber 
had nearly concluded the operation, he was again seized with 
the desire ; and, before he could summon courage enough to 
suppress it, he gave the man's throat a tremendous gash; 
fortunately, however, the wound was not fatal 

Gall informs us of a man who, on reading in the news* 
papers the particulars of a case of murder, perpetrated under 
circumstances of peculiar atrocity, was instantly seized with 
a desire to murder his servant, and would have done so, had 
he not given his intended victim timely warning to escape. 

Some years ago, a man hung himself on the threshold of 
one of the doors of the corridor at the Hdtel des InvaUds. 
No suicide had occurred in the establishment for two years 
previously; but in the succeeding fortnight, five invalids 
hung themselves on the same cross bar, and the governor was 
obliged to shut up the passage. 

Sydenham informs us that, at Mansfield, in a particular 
year, in the month of June, suicide prevailed to an alarming 
degree, from a cause wholly unaccountable. The same thing 



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IMITATIVE) OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. Ill 

happened at Rouen^ in 1806 ; at Stuttgard^ in the summer of 
1811 ; and at a vills^ of St Pierre Montjean^ in the VaUds, 
in the year 1813. One of the most remarkable epidemics of 
the kind was that which prevailed at Versailles in the year 
1793. The number of suicides within the year was 1300 — 
a number out of all proportion to the population of the town. 
In the olden time^ the ladies of Miletus, in a fit of melan* 
choly for the absence of their husbands and lovers^ resolved 
to hang themselves^ and vied with each other in the alacrity 
with which they did the deed. In the time of the Ptolemies^ 
a stoic philosopher pleaded so eloquently^ one day^ to an 
Alexandrian audience on the advantages of suicide, that he 
inspired his hearers with his principles, and a great number 
voluntarily sacrificed their lives. 

A clergyman, master of a very large and popular school, 
the locality of which, for obvious reasons, it would not do to 
specify, recently informed one of his friends that he had dis- 
covered a new pupil in the act of practising a disgraceful 
vice. " Send him home to his parents, and say nothing about 
it," was the friend's judicious recommendation. The school- 
master, however, placed great confidence in his own eloquence 
and the corrective powers of the birch. He assembled his 
boys, made an excellent harangue on the guilt of the delin- 
quent, and gave him a sound flogging. The example of 
crime proved more influential than the example of punish- 
ment, and the vice spread so rapidly that the whole school 
was broken up in consequence.* 

The particulars of the following case are recorded in the 
" American Journal of the Medical Sciences," by Dr. Parrish. 
He says, " I was called to visit a child in the family of 
J. S., a respectable gentleman residing in my neighbour- 
hood. On my arrival, at 3 p. m., I found, on going into the 
chamber of my patient, that death had occurred. The patient 
was a girl in her fifteenth year, who had been carefully 

♦ Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xvi. 



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112 IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 

brought up by a family with whom she had lived between 
seven and eight years. She had generally enjoyed good 
health) with the exception of occasional attacks of sickness of 
the stomach) and head-ache. She had just passed the age of 
puberty, and possessed a docile disposition. Her situation in 
life, as fiur as could be ascertained, was in eveiy respect agree- 
able, and congenial to her wishes. 

*' On the morning of the day of her death, she was en- 
gaged as usual in the domestic concerns of the family until 
eight o'clock, when she was observed in the yard vomiting. 
Upon inquiring into the history of the case, I found that 
eariy in the morning on which the patient died, she had held 
a conversation with a little girl residing in the next house, in 
which she mentioned having lately read in a newspaper of a 
man who had been unfortunate in his business, and had taken 
arsenic to destroy himself; she also spoke of an apothecary's 
shop near by, and said she frequently went there. 

*' The narration of this conversation afforded strong suspi- 
cion to my mind that she had committed suicide ; a suspicion 
which was strengthened by the &ct, that a few months pre- 
vious I had been called upon to visit a person residing in the 
same house, who had suffered for some years under mental 
derangement, and had recently been discharged from the 
insane hospital near Frankford ; he had taken laudanum, with 
the intent of destroying himself. 

** This circumstance would naturally produce a strong im- 
pression upon the mind of the child, which was increased, no 
doubt, by the reading of the case detailed in the newspaper. 
In this way the desire to commit a similar act was kindled up 
in the mind of the deluded girl, and thus, by that inexplicable 
connexion which, in some instances at least, appears to exist 
between the knowledge of such a horrible act and the desire 
to perform it, she was almost irresistibly impelled to the deed. 

" This case is stated as affording strong testimony in favour 
of a principle which is now beginning to attract the attention 
of medical men — viz., that the publicity which is given to 



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IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 113 

cases of suicide, in the newspapers and by other means, forms 
one of the strongest incentives to the commission of the act, in 
those who have a secret disposition to destroy themselves. 

** K this be the fact, a high responsibility rests upon phy- 
sicians, so to influence public opinion, and more especiaUy 
editors, as to prevent the narration of the circumstances con- 
nected with the death of this unfortunate class. No good can 
certainly arise (to the public) from the exposure of facts which 
ought to remain concealed in the bosom of distressed families ; 
while there is reason to believe the list of victims to suicide 
is annually very much swelled from the course which is now 
so generally pursued." * 

It has been noticed that certain atmospherical phenomena 
have attended or preceded the suicidal epidemics that have 
prevailed at various periods. Whether these electrical condi- 
tions of the air are in any way connected with this peculiar 
form of contagious malady is a point not easily to be de- 
cided. A certain degree of atmospherical moisture appears 
to favour the spread of the suicidal disposition ; but this may 
result from the well known influence of moist air on the dis- 
position of the mind, and may operate by causing a degree of 
mental despondency and lassitude, very favourable to the de- 
velopment of the suicidal mania, particularly after the occur- 
rence of any very remarkable case of self-destruction. It is 
notorious that nothing is so likely to unsettle the mind, 
especially if an hereditary disposition be present, than 
constantly associating with lunatics, and allowing the mind 
to dwell for any length of time on the subject of insanity. 
If actual mental derangement does not result from an expo- 
sure to the causes referred to, a certain degree of eccentricity 
bordering on the confines of aberration is generally percep- 
tible. With our present amount of knowledge of the subtle 
principle of contagion, it is difficult to say whether an efflu- 
vium may not be generated in such cases which, under certain 

* Vol. xxi. for 1837. 



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114 IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE. 

conditions of the system, may communicate disease. We 
cannot possibly say Uiat this is not the case. If we are justi- 
fied, which we by no means are willing to admit, in the opinion 
that the disposition to suicide and insanity may be propagated 
by contagion, using this term in its usual acceptation, it is a 
great consolation to the mind to think that only occasionally 
does the disease exhibit the slightest approach to virulence, 
and that, unlike many of the admitted contagious maladies, 
we may approach the patient without much fear or appre- 
hension. 



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115 



CHAPTER VI. 
SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. 



Singular motives for committing suicide — A man who delighted in torturing 
himself— A dangerous experiment — Pleasures of carnage— Disposition 
to leap from precipices — Lord Byron's allusion to the influence of fasci- 
nation — Miss Moyes and the Monument — A man who could not trust 
himself with a razor — Esquirol's opinion of such cases — Danger of as- 
cending elevated places. 

How strange, extraordinary, and inexplicable are the motives 
which often lead to the commission of suicide ! Many have 
been induced to rush into the arms of death in order to avoid 
the pain which they fancy accompanies dissolution. ^^ Hicy 
rogOf non furor est, ne moriare morif^ Others have been appa- 
rently led to the perpetration of the crime by a desire to 
ascertain what sensations attended the act of dying ; whilst 
some have been influenced by a feeling of fascination, and 
have stated that they experienced ecstatic delight at the idea 
of self-immolation. 

The case of a man is recorded who felt the most exquisite 
delight in torturing himself. He had oflen expressed a wish 
to be hanged, from the notion that this Newgate mode of ter- 
minating life must give rise to sensations of great pleasure. 
The idea occurred to him one day of trying the experiment. 
He procured apiece of cord, attached it to the ceiling, and sus- 
pended himself from it; fortunately for the poor infatuated 
man, the servant entered the room a few minutes afterwards, 

i2 



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116 SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. 

and cut bim down. Life was not extinct The man ex- 
pressed that he felt, during the few moments that he was 
hanging, a thrilling delight, which no language that he could 
use could convey anything like an adequate expression of. 
There was no doubt that this man laboured under an abnormal 
condition of the mind, which, if not amounting to insanity, 
certainly approached veiy nearly the confines of that disease.* 

A woman was admitted some years back into one of our 
metropolitan hospitals who had a propensity to cut her 
person with every sharp instrument that she could procure. 
It was not her intention to kill herself; and when reasoned 
with on the folly of her actions, she observed that she was im- 
pelled by no other motive than the fascinating pleasure she 
experienced whenever she succeeded in drawing blood. 

A lady, a passenger on board of a ship bound for the East 
Indies, was firequently heard to express a wish to know what 
feeling a person experienced in the act of being drowned. 

* It is related by Lord Bacon, in his " Historia Vitse et Mortis/' that a 
friend of bis, who was particularly anxious to ascertain whether criminals suf- 
fered much pain in undergoing the sentence of the law, on one occasion sus- 
pended himself by the neck, having for that purpose thrown himself off a 
stool, on which he supposed he could readily remount, when he had carried 
his experiment sufficiently far to satisfy his curiosity. The report goes on to 
state, that the loss of consciousness which followed would have led to a fatal 
termination of the experiment, had not a friend accidentally entered the 
apartment in time to save the life of the adventurous experimentalist. Fodere 
relates a similar incident of one of his fellow-students. This young man, 
afler an argument respecting the cause of death in hanging, resolved person- 
ally to gratify his curiosity, by passing a ligature round his neck, and attach- 
ing it to a hook behind the door. To accomplish this, he had raised himself 
on tip-toe, and now gradually brought his heels to the ground. He soon lost 
all consciousness, but was cut down by a companion, who discovered him, in 
a state of insensibility, very soon after the commencement of the experiment, 
and by the prompt application of remedial measures he was finally recovered. 
From cases of this description we learn that the first effect experienced in 
hanging is the appearance of a dazzling light before the eyes, accompanied 
by tingling in the ears. These sensations are, however, momentary, for insen- 
sibility and death rapidly close the scene. 



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SUICroE FROM FASCINATION. 117 

She fancied the sensations must be of a pleasurable character. 
Her fellow-passengers laughed at her whenever she alluded 
to the matter. Having introduced the subject again during 
dinner, she observed, " Well, I intend to try the experiment 
to-morrow morning." The threat only excited the merriment 
of those who heard it In the morning, whilst the passengers 
were on deck, the lady plunged into tlie sea, to the astonish- 
ment of everybody. Luckily for her, the ship was becalmed, 
and her life was saved. 

An extraordinary young man, who lived at Paris, and who 
was passionately fond of mechanics, shut himself up one 
evening in his apartment, and bound not only his chest and 
stomach, but also his arms, legs, and thighs, vrith ropes full of 
knots, the ends of which he fastened to hooks in the wall. 
After having passed a considerable part of the night in this 
situation, he wished to disengage himself, but attempted it 
in vain. Some neighbouring females, who were up, heard 
his cries, and, calling for assistance, they forced open the door 
of his room, when they found him swinging in the air, with 
only one arm extricated. He was immediately carried to the 
lieutenant-general of the police for examination, when he de- 
clared that he had often put similar trials into execution, as 
he experienced indescribable pleasure in them. He confessed 
that at first he felt pain, but that after the cords became tight 
to a certain degree, he was soon rewarded by the most exqui- 
site sensations of pleasure.* 

" As the chill dews of evening were surrounding 
our bivouac," says the author of the "Recollections of 
the Peninsula," ** a staff officer, with a courier, came 
galloping into it, and alighted at the quarters of our gene- 
ral It was soon known amongst us that a severe and san- 
guinary action had been fought by our brother soldiers at 
Talavera. Disjointed rumours spoke of a dear-bought field> 
a heavy loss, and a subsequent retreat. I well remember how 
we all gathered round our fires to listen, to conjecture, and to 



* Gazette Litteraire. 



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118 SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. 

talk about this glorious, but bloody eyent We regretted that 
we had borne no share in the honours of such a day ; and toe 
talked with an undefined pleamre about the carnage. Yes ! 
strange as it may appear, soldiers, and not they alone, talk of 
the danger of battle fields with a sensation which partakes 
of pleasure." 

A watchmaker of Aberdeen, who had been looking over 
the precipices of Loch«narGair, suddenly felt a desire to pre- 
cipitate himself firom the height, and having first taken a step 
or two back for the purpose, he flung hunself off. 

A gentleman travelling through Switzerland, with his wife, 
came to an eminence commanding an extensive and beautiful 
view of the surrounding country. He went, accompanied by 
his wife, to the edge of a mountainous cliff, and, turning 
round to his lady, he observed — ** I have lived long enough !" 
and in a moment threw himself down the precipice. 

It was a notion of this kind which induced Lord Byron to 
observe that he believed no man ever took a razor into his 
hand who did not at the same time think how easily he 
might sever the silver cord of life. The noble poet evidently 
alludes, in the following stanzas, to the strange and unac- 
countable influence of fascination in exciting the mind to 
commit suicide : — 

" A sleep without dreams, after a rough day 
Of toil, is what we covet most, and yet 
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay ! 
The very suicide that pays his debts 
At once, without instalments, (an old way 
Of paying debts, which creditors regret,) 
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath. 
Less from disgust of life than dread of death. 

'Tis round him, near him, there, everywhere ; 
And there's a courage which grows out of fear. 
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare 
The worst to know it : — when the mountains rear 
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there 
You look down o*er the precipice, and drear 
The gulf of rock yawns, — you can't gaze a minute 
Without an awful wish to plunge within it ! 



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SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. 119 

Tis true, you don't — but, pale and struck with terror, 

Retire : but look into your past impression 1 

And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror 

Of your own thoughts^ in all their self-confession, 

The lurking bias, be it truth or error. 

To the unknoum ; a secret prepossession^ 

To plunge with all your fears — but where? You know not, 

And that's the reason why you do^-or do not/' 

A gentleman with whom we are acquamted, infonned us 
that, a few days after Miss Moyes had thrown herself from the 
Monument, a friend of his had the curiosity to visit the spot, 
and on looking down the awful height from which this poor 
unfortunate girl had precipitated herself, he felt suddenly an 
attack of giddiness, which was succeeded in a moment by one 
of the most pleasurable sensations he had ever experienced, 
accompanied with a desire to jump off. He was not in- 
fluenced, apparently, by any other motive than that of a 
wish to gratify a feeling of ecstasy which for a minute sus- 
pended all the operations of the mind. A gentleman who 
was by him asked him a question with reference to the height 
of the Monument, and this circumstance recalling him to the 
exercise of his reasoning faculties, he immediately left the 
spot, shuddering at the recollection of the idea which had 
momentarily flashed across his mind. 

The case is related of a man who had this feeling so 
strongly manifested that he never dared trust himself with 
a razor. He was not devoid of religious feeling, and was 
most happy in his domestic relations. On occasions which 
required the exercise of moral resolution, he was never 
found wanting. He declared his life would not be safe for a 
day if he were permitted to shave himself. Such instances 
are by no means uncommon, and require much ingenuity to 
account satisfectorily for them, unless they be referred to the 
effect of fascination. 

Andral observes, " that there are many men perfectly 
rational, and completely undisturbed by care or pain, who. 



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120 SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION. 

singular to state^ have been suddenly seized by a headlong, 
groundless inclination to destroy themselves. There are 
hundreds who cannot approach the brink of a cliff, or ascend 
a lofty tower, without experiencing an almost invincible desire 
to precipitate themselves to the bottom, from which fate they 
only save themselves by an instantaneous effort to retire from 
the temptation. I knew a gentleman who, while shaving 
himself one day, alone, was three times so vehemently urged 
to plunge the razor into his throat, that he was at length 
compelled to throw the instrument from him, in absolute 
horror and dismay. In rational men, however, these trying 
and dangerous moments are but of very short duration." 

A sailor informed us that he had often, when at the top of 
the mast, felt disposed to precipitate himself from the giddy 
eminence, influenced by no other motive than that of pleasure. 

In such cases, what course is the medical man to pursue ? 
It is difficult to give any instructions for the treatment of such 
cases of mental idiosysncray. Persons who are subject to 
feelings of this character should be advised to avoid ascending 
elevated places. 



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121 



CHAPTER VIL 



OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY 
WHICH, IF ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE. 



Connexion between genius and insanity — Authors of fiction often feel wliat 
they write — Metastasio in tears — The enthusiasm of Pope, Alfieri, Dry- 
den — Effects of the first reading of Telemachus and Tasso on Madame 
Roland's mind — Rafiaelle and his celebrated picture of the Transfiguration 
— ^The convulsions of Malbranche — Beattie*s Essay on Truth — Influence 
of intense study on Boerrhave's mind»The demon of Spioello and 
Luther — Bourdaloue and his violin — Byron's sensitiveness^ Men do not 
always practise what they preach — Cases of Smollett, La Fontaine, Sir 
Thomas More, Zimmermao^-Tasso's spectre — Johnson's superstition — 
Concluding remarks. 

It has been observed that the act of isuicide may often 
originate in a feeling analogous to the enthusiasm exhibited 
by men of great genius and sensibility. This mental idiosyn- 
crasy, which borders so closely on the confines of insanity, 
has been compared to the narrow bridge of Al Sirat, which 
leads the followers of Mahomet firom earth to heaven, but by 
so narrow a path that the passenger is in momentary danger 
of falling into the dismal gulf which yawns beneath him. 
This abnormal condition of the nervous system is, to a certidn 
extent, dependent on natural organic structure, aided ma- 
terially by an unhealthy exercise of the imaginative &culty. 
Fielding spoke but the history of his own sensations when he 
declared that he " had no doubt but the most pathetic scenes 
had been writ with tears." Metastasio was foimd weeping 



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122 OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY 

over his Olympiad. He says : ** When I apply with atten- 
tion, the nerves of my sensorium are put into a violent tumult ; 
I grow as red as a drunkard, and am obliged to quit my work." 
Pope could not proceed with certain passages of his translation 
of Homer without shedding tears. *Alfieri declares that he 
frequently penned the most tender passages in his plays 
" under a paroxysm of enthusiasm, and whilst shedding tears." 
Dryden was seized with violent tremors during the com- 
position of his celebrated ode. Rousseau, in conceiving the 
first idea of his Essay on the Arts, became almost delirious 
with enthusiasm. 

Madame Roland has thus powerfully described the ideal 
presence in her first readings of Telemachus and Tasso : — 
*^ My respiration rose, I felt a rapid fire colouring my fiuje, 
and my voice changing had betrayed my agitation. I was 
Eucharis for Telemachus, and Emenia for Tancred. Having 
my reason during this perfect transformation, I did not yet think 
that I myself was anything for any one : the whole had no 
connexion vrith myself. I sought for nothing around me ; I 
was they ; I saw only the objects which existed for them ; it 
was a dream without being awakened." 

Rafiaelle says, alluding to his celebrated picture, the Trans- 
figuration — " When I have stood looking at that picture, firom 
figure to figure,- the eagerness, the spirit, the close unaffected 
attention of each figure to the principal action, my thoughts 
have carried me away, that I have forgot myself, and for that 
time might be looked upon as an enthusiastic madman ; for I 
could really fancy the whole action was passing before my 
eyes." 

Malbranche was seized with violent palpitations of the heart 
when reading Descartes's Treatise on Man : — 

" With curious art, the brain too finely wrought 
Preys on itself, and is destroyed by thought ; 
Constant attention wears the active mind, 
Blots out her powers, and leaves a blank behind." 

Intense occupation of mind to any particular branch of 

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WHICH, IF ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE. 123 

Study, often brings the mind on the verge of madness. " Since 
the * Essay on Truth' was printed in quarto," says Dr, Beattie, 
" I have never dared to read it over, I durst not even read 
the sheets to see whether there were any errors in the print, 
and was obliged to get a fnend to do that o£Sce for me. 
These studies came, in time, to have dreadful effects upon my 
nervous system ; and I cannot read what I then wrote without 
some degree of horror, because it recaJs to my mind the 
horrors that I have sometimes felt after passing a long evening 
in these severe studies." 

Boerrhave has related of himself that, having imprudently 
indulged in intense thought on a particular subject, he did 
not close his eyes for six weeks afterwards. 

Spinello, having painted the fall of the rebellious angels, 
had so strongly imagined the illusion, and more particularly 
the terrible features of Lucifer, that he was himself struck 
with such horror as to have been long afflicted with the 
presence of the demon to which his genius had given birth. 
Swedenburg saw a terrestrial heaven in the glittering streets 
of his New Jerusalem. 

Malbranche declared he heard the voice of God distinctly 
within him. Pascal often was seen to rush suddenly from his 
chair at the appearance of a fiery gulf by his side. Luther 
maintained that during his confinement the devil used to visit 
him. 

Hudibras says — 

'' Did not the devil appear to Martin 
Luther, in Germany, for certain ? '* 

He declares that he had many a contest with his satanic 
majesty, and that he had always the best of the argument. At 
one time, the devil so enraged Luther that he threw the ink- 
stand at him, an action which the German commentators 
greatly applaud, fi*om a conviction that there is nothing which 
the devil abhors more than ink. 

Descartes, after long confinement, was followed by an in- 
visible person, calling upon him to pursue the search of truth. 



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124 OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRIT ABILITY 

Mozart's sensibility to music was connected with so sus- 
ceptible a nervous system that, in his childhood^ the sound of 
a trumpet would turn him pale^ and almost induce convulsions. 
Dr. Conolly relates an amusing anecdote of the celebrated 
Bourdaloue. It is said that the composition of his eloquent 
sermons so excited his mind that he was unable to deliver 
them until he discovered some mode of allaying his excite- 
ment ** His attendants one day were both scandalized and 
alarmed; on proceeding to his apartment^ for the purpose of 
accompanying him to the cathedral, by hearing the sound of a 
fiddle, on which was played a very lively tune. After their 
first consternation, they ventured to look through the key- 
hole, and were still more shocked to behold the great divine 
dancing about, without his gown and canonicals, to his own 
inspiring music. Of course, they concluded him to be mad. 
But, when they knocked, the music ceased ; and after a short 
and anxious interval, he met them with a composed dress and 
manner; and, observing some signs of astonishment in the 
party, explained to them that without his music and his 
exercise he should have been unable to undertake the duties 
of the day." 

In the character of Lord Byron we have an apt illustration 
of the kind of mental irritability and morbid sensitiveness of 
feeling that so often incites to acts of desperation. It has been 
said that the noble poet was the child of passion, bom in 
bitterness and " nurtured in convulsion." The true state of 
his mind can best be divined from the delineation of his own 
sensations as given in Childe Harold: — 

** I have thought 

Too long and darkly, till my brain became 

In its own eddy boiling, and overwrought 

A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame : 

And thus untaught in youth' my heart to tame. 

My springs of life were poisoned.** 

Byron was subject to attacks of epilepsy ; and perhaps this 
fact may account for much of the spleen and irritability which 
he manifested through life, and which made him so many 



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WHICH, IF ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE. 125 

enemies. It also teaches us an important lesson. We are too 
apt to form our estimate of character without taking into con- 
sideration all those circumstances which are known materially 
to influence human thought and actions. The state of the 
oi^anization and the health ought to be maturely weighed 
before we pronounce authoritatively as to the motives of indi- 
viduals, or denounce them for not acting or thinking accord- 
ing to what our preconceived opinions have taught us to 
consider as orthodox. Byron's mind was morbidly alive to 
impressions. The most trifling circumstance would cause him 
to swoon. At Bologna, in 1819, he describes one of his con- 
vulsive attacks : — " Last m'ght I went to the representation of 
Alfieri's Myrrha, the last two acts of which threw me into con- 
vulsions; I don't mean by that word lady's hysterics, but an 
agony of reluctant tears, and the choking shudder which I 
do not often undergo for fiction." He was seized in a similar 
manner at seeing Kean in Sir Giles Overreach ; he was car- 
ried out of the theatre in convulsions. From early life, Byron 
exhibited this abnormal excitability. There can be no doubt 
that it was but the natural efiect of a peculiar condition of 
nervous function ; but, instead of endeavouring to subdue the 
feeling, he did his best to encourage it, and to fan the fire into 
a flame. He appears to have been tortured by horrid dreams. 
He says in his Journal — '* I awoke fix)m a dream : well, have 
not others dreamed ? Such a dream I But she did not over- 
take me ! I wish the dead would rest for ever. Ugh I how 
my blood is chilled I I do not like this dream ; I hate its 
foregone conclusion." 

The ** Bride of Abydos" was written to distract the poet's 
mind from his dreams. He was in such a nervous state at this 
period, that he says if he had not done something, he must 
have gone mad, or have eat his own heart. 

Stendhal, alluding to Byron's apparent remorse, asks, " Is it 
not possible that Byron might have had some guilty stain on 
his conscience, similar to that which wrecked Othello's fame ? 
Can it be, have we sometimes exclaimed, that, in a frenzy of 



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126 OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY 

pride or jealousy, he had shortened the days of some fair Gre- 
cian slave, fiEuthless to her vows ?"* 

It b not just to form our opinions of the character of men by 
their writings or actions. In the mass, we are ready to admit 
that we have no other criteria by which to be guided ; but we 
may charitably consider that Byron was not himself the ^^ dark 
original he drew." 

** O memory ! torture me no more : 
The present 's all o'ercast — 
My hopes of future bliss are o'er ; 
In mercy, veil the past." 

Such were his feelings at the age of seventeen. 

La Fontaine penned tales fertile in intrigues, and yet he 
was never known, says D'Israeli, to have been engaged in a 
single amour. Smollett was anything but what his writings 
would lead us to expect Cowley boasted of his mistresses, and 
wanted the courage to address one. Burton declaimed against 
melancholy, and yet he was the most miserable of men. Sir 
Thomas More preached in fiivour of toleration, yet in practice 
was a fierce persecutor. Zimmerman, whilst he was incul- 
cating beautifiil lessons of benevolence, was by his tyranny 
driving his son into madness, and leaving his daughter an 
outcast firom home. Goethe says, *' Zimmerman's harshness 
towards his children was the effect of hypochondria, a sort of 
madness or moral assassination, to which he himself fell a 
victim after sacrificing his oflspring." 

Byron occasionally fimcied he was visited by a spectre, 
which he confesses was but the effect of an overstimulated 
brain. 

Tasso, whose fine imagination the passions of hopeless love, 
and of grief occasioned by ill treatment, disordered, was in 
daily communication with a spirit This circumstance is 
alluded to in the following anecdote of him, prefixed to 
Hoole's translation of his " La Giermdlemme LiberataJ' 

* Foreign Literary Gazette. 



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WHICH, IF ENCOURAOEDy WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE. 127 

'^ In ibis place (at Bisaccio, near Naples) Manso had an 
opportunity of examining the singular effects of Tasso's me- 
lancholy, and often disputed with him concerning a iainiliAr 
spirit, with which he pretended to converse. Manso endea- 
voured in vain to persuade his friend that the whole was the 
illusion of a disturbed imagination ; but the latter was stre- 
nuous in maintaining the reality of what he asserted ; and to 
convince Manso, desired him to be present at one of these 
mysterious conversations. Manso had the complaisance to 
meet him next day; and while they were engaged in dis- 
course, on a sudden he observed that Tasso kept his eyes fixed 
upon a window, and remained in a manner immovable. He 
called him by his name several times, but received no answer. 
At last Tasso cried out, * There is the friendly spirit, who is 
come to converse with me. Look, and you will be convinced 
of the truth of all that I have said.' Manso heard him with 
surprise ; he looked, but saw nothing except the sunbeams 
darting through the window : he cast his eyes all over the 
room, but could perceive nothing, and was just going to ask 
where the pretended spirit was, when he heard Tasso speak 
with great earnestness, sometimes putting questions to the 
spirit, and sometimes giving answers, delivering the whole in 
such a pleasing manner, and with such elevated expressions, 
that he listened with admiration, and had not the least incli- 
nation to interrupt him. At last the uncommon conversation 
ended with the departure of the spirit, as appeared by Tasso's 
words, who, turning to Manso, asked him if his doubts were 
removed? Manso was more amazed than ever; he scarce 
knew what to think of his friend's situation, and waved any 
fiirther conversation on the subject." 

Boswell says. Dr. Johnson mentioned a thing as not un- 
frequent, of which he (Boswell) had never heard before, — 
being called, that is, hearing one's name pronounced, by the 
voice of a known person at a great distance, far beyond 
the possibility of being reached by any sound, uttered by 
human oi^ans. An acquaintance, on whose veracity Boswell 



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128 OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND BCENTAL IRRITABILITY 

says be could place every dependence, told him that, walking 
home one evening to Kilmarnock, he heard himself called 
from a wood, by the voice of a brother who had gone to 
America, and the next packet brought the account of that 
brother's death. Macbean asserted that this inexplicable 
calling was a thing very well known. Dr. Johnson said, that 
one day at Oxford, as he was turning the key of his cham- 
bers, he heard distinctly his mother call Sam ! She was then 
at Lichfield ; but nothing ensued. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds gives an amusing instance of Dr. 
Johnson's eccentricity. He says, " When he and I took a 
journey into the west, we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dor- 
setshire. The conversation turning upon pictures, which John- 
son could not well see, he retired to a comer of the room, 
stretching out his right leg as far as he could reach before 
him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching his right 
still further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to 
him, and in a very courteous manner assured him that, though 
it was not a new house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The 
Doctor started from his reverie, like a person waked out of a 
sleep, but spoke not a word," 

Dr. Johnson had one peculiarity, says Boswell, of which 
none of his friends dared to ask an explanation. This was an 
anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage by a certain 
number of steps from a certain point, so that either his right 
or left foot should constantly make the first actual movement 
Thus, upon innumerable occasions, Boswell has seen him 
suddenly stop, and then seem to count his steps with deep 
earnestness ; and when he had neglected, or gone wrong in 
this sort of magical movement, he has been noticed to go 
back again, put himself in a proper posture to recommence 
the ceremony, and having gone through it, break from his 
abstraction, briskly walk on, and join his companions. 

An inordinate cultivation of any one faculty of the mind, 
but more particularly the imagination, will tend to produce 
the peculiarities which have been illustrated in this chapter. 



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WHICH, IF ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE* 129 

A person who accustoms himself to live in a world created by 
his own fancy — who surrounds himself with flimsy idealities — 
will, in the course of time, cease to sympathize with the grow 
realities of life. The imaginary intelligences which his own 
morbid mind has called into existence will exercise a terrific 
influence over him. A German poet commenced writing a 
poem on the Deity. He allowed his mind to dwell so intensely 
on the subject, that he fancied he was commanded to *' flee 
from a world of sin and iniquity ;** to eflect which, he cut his 
throat, and was found dead in bed, with the razor in one hand 
and a portion of his poem in the other. The apparitions 
which the monomaniac £uicies to haunt him are as real and 
sensible existences to him, as objects are to persons who 
have a healthy use of the media through which ideas obtain 
access to the mind. Mr. Calcraft, the late member of parliar- 
ment, committed suicide. He imagined that a strange un- 
earthly-looking being sat night and day perched at the top 
of his bed, watching with earnestness his every movement 
This, which to all around him was an hallucination, to him 
was a reality. It is possible for a person of vivid imagination 
to conjure into apparent existence the most grotesque images 
of the fancy, by allowing the mind to dwell with intenseness 
on a particular train of thought, and by perfectly abstracting 
the attention from all materiality. 



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130 



CHAPTER VIIL 
PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 



Influence of climate — ^The foggy climate of England does not increase the 
number of suicides — Average number of suicides in each month, from 
1817 to 1826— Influence of seasons — Suicides at Rouen — ^The English 
not a suicidal people — Philip Mordaunt*s sii^lar reasons for self-de- 
struction — Causes of French suicides — Influence of physical pain — Un- 
natural vices — Suicide the efiect of intoxication— Influence of hepatic dis- 
ease on the mind — Melancholy and hypochondriasis. Burton's account 
of— Cowper's case of suicide — Particulars of his extreme depression of 
spirits — Byron and Boms's melancholy from stomach and liver derange- 
ment — Influence of bodily disease on the mind — Importance of paying 
attention to it — A case of insanity from gastric irritation — Dr. Johnson*s 
hypochondria — Hereditary suicide, illustrated by cases — Suicide from 
blows on the head, and from moral shocks communicated to the brain — 
Dr. G. Manteirs valuable observations and cases demonstrative of the 
point — Concluding remarks. 

The following are the physical causes which are commonly 
found to operate in producing the suicidal disposition — ^viz.^ 
climate, seasons, hereditary predisposition, cerebral injuries, 
physical suffering, disease of the stomach and liver compU- 
cated with melancholia and hypochondriasis, insanity, sup- 
pressed secretions, intoxication, unnatural vices, and derange- 
ment of the primcB vice. These causes can only act by 
influencing sympathetically the brain and nervous system, 
and in that way interfering with the healthy operations of 
the mind. Much will, of coiurse, depend upon the physical 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 131 

conformation of the individual exposed to such agents. 
Should he labour under an hereditary predisposition to in- 
sanity^ or to suicidal delirium, a very trifling corporeal de- 
rangement may call into existence the self-destructive pro- 
pensity, and vice versa* It will be our object to consider 
seriatim all the physical agents just enumerated. 

Among the causes of suicide, the foggy climate of England 
has been brought prominently forward. The specious and 
inaccurate conclusions of Montesquieu on this point have 
misled the public mind. The climate of Holland is much 
more gloomy than that of England, and yet in that country 
suicide is by no means common. The reader will perceive 
from the following tabular statement that the popular notion 
of the month of November being the "suicide's month" is 
founded on erroneous data. 

The average number of suicides in each month, from 1817 
to 1826, was as foUovra: — 

January 213 

February 218 

March 275 

April 374 

May 328 

June 336 

July 301 

August 296 

September 246 

October 198 

November 131 

December 217 

3133 

It has been clearly established that in all the European 
capitals, when anything approaching to correct statistical 
evidence can be procured, the maximum of suicide is in the 

k2 



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132 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

months of June and Julj^; the minimum in October and 
November. Temperature appears to exercise a much more 
decided influence than the circumstances of moisture and 
dryness, storms or serenity. M. Villeneuve has observed a 
warm, humid, and cloudy atmosphere to produce a marked 
bad effect at Paris ; and that so long as the barometer indicated 
stormy weather, this effect continued.* Contrary, however, to 
the opinion of Villeneuve, it appears that by far the fewer 
number of suicides occur in the autumn and winter at Paris, 
than in the spring and summer. 

Number of suicides for seven years. 

In Spring 997 

In Summer 933 

In Autumn 627 

In Winter 648 

When the thermometer of Fahrenheit ranges from 80° to 90** 
suicide is most prevalent. 

The English have been accused by foreigners of being the 
beau-ideal of a suicidal people. The charge is almost too 
ridiculous to merit serious refutation. It has clearly been 
established that where there is one suicide in London, there 
are five in Paris. In the year 1810, the number of suicides 
committed in London amounted to 188 ; the population of 
Paris being near 400,000 less than that of London. From 
the year 1827 to 1830, no less than 6900 suicides occurred ; 
that is, an average of nearly 1800 per annum. Out of 120,000 
persons who ensured their lives in the London Equitable 
Insurance Company, the number of suicides in twenty years 

* In 1806, upwards of sixty voluntary deaths took place at Rouen, during 
June and July, the air being at that time remarkably humid and warm ; 
and in July and August of the same year, more than three hundred were 
committed at Copenhagen, the constitution of the atmosphere presentitig the 
same characteristics as it did at Rouen. The year 1793, presented in the 
town of Versailles alone the horrible spectacle of thirteen hundred suicides. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 133 

was only fifteen ; so much for the English being par excellence 
disposed to suicide. 

The causes which frequently lead to self-destruction in 
France are, defective religious education^ ennuiy and loss at dice 
or cards. In considering the circumstances which produce this 
disparity in the number of voluntary deaths in the two coun- 
tries^ we must bear in mind the moral and religious habits of 
the people. When Christianity is not acknowledged as a 
matter of vital importance in the affairs of man ; when mo- 
rality is considered only as a conventional term, conveying no 
definite idea to the mind^ it is natural that there should exist, 
co-relative with this tone of feeUng, a marked recklessness of 
human life. Some notion may be formed of the state of reli- 
gious feeling in Paris, when our readers are informed of the 
existence in the French metropolis of a ** society for the 
mutual encouragement of suicide," all the members of which, 
on joining it, swear to terminate their existence by their own 
hands, when life becomes insupportable. 

Dr. Schlegel dwells at much length on the abandoned 
state of Paris, and after giving us some important statistical 
evidence, he alludes to the gross immorality of the people, and 
denounces the French capital as ^^ a suffocating boiling caul- 
dron, in which, as in the stew of Macbeth's witches, there 
simmer, with a modicum of virtue, all kinds of passions, vices, 
and crimes." 

Alluding to the peculiarities of the French people, particu-> 
larly their indifference to human Ufe, an eminent writer 
observes, speaking of their notions of suicide, that a French- 
man asks you to see him '^ go off," as if death were a place in 
the vfwlle poste, "Will you dine with me to-day ?" said a 
Frenchman to a friend. " With the greatest pleasure ; — ^yet, 
now I think of it, I am particularly engaged to shoot myself; 
one cannot get off suck an engagement" This is not the sui- 
cide a la mode with us. We ape at no such extra civilization 
and refinement. We can be romantic without blowing out our 
brains. English lovers do not, when " the course of true love" 



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134 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF 8UICIDK. 

does not run smooth, retire to some sequestered spot, and 
rush into the next world by a brace of pistols tied with cherry- 
coloured ribbons. When we do shoot ourselves, it is done 
with true English gravity. It is no joke with us. We have no 
inherent predilection for the act; no "hereditary imperfection 
of the nervous juices," as Montesquieu, with all the impudence 
and gravity of a philosopher, asserts, forcing us to commit 
suicide. ^' Life," said a man who had exhausted all his exter- 
nal sources of enjoyment, and had no internal ones to fly to, 
*^ has given me a headache ; and I want a good sleep in the 
churchyard to set me to rights," to procure which, he delibe- 
rately shot himself.* 

A late French writer thus attempts to account for the pre- 
valence of suicide in France : — " The external circumstances 
which tend to suggest the idea of suicide are very numerous, 
at the present day, in France ; but more particularly so in the 
capital. The high development of civilization and refine- 
ment which prevails here — the clash of interests — the repeated 
political changes — all contribute to keep the moral feelings in 
a perpetual state of tension. Life does not roll on among us 
in a peaceful and steady current ; it rushes forward with the 
force and precipitation of a torrent. In the terrible mSleej it 
often happens that the little minority, which has obtained a 
footing high above the multitude for a time, falls down as 
suddenly as they have risen. The struggles of life are fall of 
miscalculations, disappointments, despair, and di^ust Hence 
the general source of our frequent suicides. But there are 

* This was Philip Mordaant, cousin-german to the celebrated Earl of 
Peterboroaghy so well known to all European courts, and who boasted of 
having seen more postillions and kings than any other man. Mordaunt was 
young, handsome, of noble blood, highly educated, and beloved by those who 
knew him. He resolved to die. Preparatory to his doing so, he wrote to his 
friends, paid his debts, and even made some verses on the occasion. He said 
his soul was tired of his body, and when we are dissatisfied with our abode, 
it is our duty to quit it. He put a pistol to his head and blew out his brains. 
An uninterrupted course of good fortune was the only motive that could be 
assigned for this suicide. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 135 

Other causes in operation; and not the least, the strange turn 
that plays and spectacles have lately taken. The public taste 
has undergone a complete revolution in this respect. No- 
thing is more patronized now at the theatre than the display 
of crime unpunished, human misery unconsoled, and a low 
literature, impregnated by a spurious philosophy, declaiming 
against society, against domestic life, against virtue itself; 
applauding the vengeance of the assassin, and recognising 
genius only as it is seen in company with spleen, poison, and 
pistols. We appeal to all who read the novels of the present 
day, and who visit the theatres, whether what we say is not 
the fact" 

It has been questioned whether physical suffering often 
originates the desire for suicide. Too many lamentable cases 
are on record to prevent us from coming to an opposite con- 
clusion. Esquirol has justly observed, that " He who has no 
intervals of ease from corporeal pain; who sees no prospects 
of relief from his cruel malady, &ils at length in resignation, 
and destroys his life in order to put a period to his sufferings. 
He calculates that the pain of dying is but momentary, and 
commits the act in a cool and meditated despair. It is the 
same in respect to moral condition, that drives the hypochon- 
driac to suicide, who is firmly persuaded that his sufferings 
are beyond imagining; that they are irremediable, either 
from some &tal peculiarity in his own constitution, or the 
ignorance of his physicians. It is a remarkable fea{ure in 
hypochondriasis, and in no other disease, that there is such a 
fear of death and a desire to die combined. Both fears proceed 
from the same pusillanimity. Finally, it may be remarked 
thatthe hypochondriac talks most of death ; often wishes his 
attendants to perform the friendly office ; even makes attempts 
on his own life, but rarely accomplishes the act. The most 
trifling motive, the most frivolous pretext. Is a sufficient 
excuse for procrastinating, from day to day, the threatened 
catastrophe." 

The following case occurred in a provincial mad-house, in 



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136 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

France. An apothecary who was confined there was haunted 
with ennuly and was always begging his companions to put 
him to death. At length, an insane patient was admitted, 
who instantly complied with the apothecary's request They 
both watched an opportunity, got out of a window in the 
back yard, and firom thence into the kitchen. They pitched 
upon the cook's chopper, and the apothecary laying his head 
on a block, his companion deUberately and effectually severed 
it firom his body. He was seized, and examined before a tri- 
bunal, where he candidly confessed the whole transaction, and 
observed that he would again perform the same friendly ofiice 
for any unhappy vrretch who was tired of his existence I * 

Lucinius Caecinius, the praetor, subdued by the pain and 
ennid of a tedious disease, swallowed opium. Dr. Haslam 
relates the case of a gentleman who destroyed himself to 
avoid the tortures of the gout It is recorded that the pain 
of the same disease drove Servius the grammarian to take 
poison. PHny informs us that one of his friends, Corellius 
Rufus, having in vain sought relief from the pangs of a dis- 
ease under which he was labouring, starved himself to death 
at the age of sixty-seven. It is related of Pomponius Atticns 
and the philosopher Cleanthes, that they both starved them- 
selves to death in order to get rid of physical pain. In the 
course of these attempts, the corporeal sufferings were re- 
moved—probably in consequence of the great exhaustion and 
attenuation; but both individuals persevered till death took 
place, observing that as this final ordeal must one day be 
undei^one, they would not now retrace their steps or give up 
the undertaking. 

Few, perhaps, are aware how firequently suicide results 
from the habit of indulging, in early youth, in a certain secret 
vice which, we are afraid, is practised to an enormous extent 
in our public schools. A feeling of false delicacy has operated 
with medical men in inducing them to refrain from dwelling 

♦ M. Falret. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 137 

upon the destructive consequences of this habit^ both to the 
moral and physical constitution, as openly and honestly as 
the importance of the subject imperatively demands. 

Medical men are, in the most enlarged acceptation of the 
term, guardians of the public health ; and no fastidious de- 
sire to avoid saying what might possibly offend the taste of 
some, ought to keep them from discharging what may be 
termed a sacred duty. The physical disease, particularly 
that connected with the nervous system, engendered by the 
pernicious practice alluded to, frequently leads to the act of 
self-destruction. We have before us the cases of itiany suicides 
in whom the disposition may clearly be traced to this cause. 
This habit most seriously affects the brain and nervous system ; 
and insanity, hypochondriasis, and melancholia, in their worst 
forms, are frequently the banefril consequences. 

K disease, structural or functional, of the abdominal viscera 
gives rise to the disposition to commit suicide, it will not re- 
quire much ingenuity to establish the fact that the habitual 
indulgence in intoxicating liquors may originate a similar 
feeling. 

It has been already established by statistical evidence, that, 
in a very large proportion of the cases of insanity admitted 
into the asylums and hospitals devoted to the reception of 
this unhappy class of patients, the mental impairment can 
clearly be traced to habits of intemperance. 

The brain and nervous system become materially affected 
in those who indulge frequently in " potations pottle deep." 
DeUrium tremens, softening of the cerebral substance, palsy, 
epilepsy, extreme hypochondriasis, are daily witnessed as the 
melancholy effects of intoxication. 

M. Falret knew the case of a man who always felt disposed 
to cut his throat when under the influence of spirits. No 
reasoning could induce him to abstain from his favourite 
draught The inevitable consequences were pointed out to 
him ; he was reasoned with, and threatened with confinement 
in a m^house 5 but nothing had the desired effect* One 



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UNIVERSfTY 



138 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

Sunday eveningy after having dnink seyeral glasses of spirits^ 
although not sufficient to produce complete inebriation^ he 
stabbed himself to the heart, and died in a few minutes. 

Incurable indigestion and organic disease of the liver are 
very commonly met ynth in habitual drunkards. In such 
persons, the constitution of the mind appears to undeigo a 
complete change. At first it may not be perceptible, and 
the patient may not be conscious of it himself, but the mental 
disease will, sooner or later, unequivocally evince itself. 

In such cases, the medical man has fearful odds to contend 
against 

A young man, who had become insane in consequence of 
long continued intoxication, made violent efforts to maim him- 
self, and especially to pull out his right eye, which appeared 
to give him great offence. Rest, temperance, seclusion, the 
application of half a dozen leeches to the temple, and a few 
doses of opening medicine, restored him, in about a fortnight, 
to the full possession of his fitculties. 

Many cases of suicide, in those who have a natural predis- 
position to it, arise fix>m the brain sympathizing with the 
liver; nor can this be a matter of surprise to any one who 
has felt the depression of spirits incident to disease of that 
organ. So many cases have occurred from this cause, that 
some writers, from not fmding, on subsequent dissection, any 
organic lesion of the brain, have referred it to diseased vis- 
cera only. But as we find that the insanity ceases when the 
liver is restored to health, there is no reason for supposing 
that the mental alienation is, in these instances, any other 
than the effect of disease of the brain. 

J. C, about fifty years of age, was insane for two years. 
He was formerly in respectable circumstances, and employed 
in the situation of writer in an office. He made several at- 
tempts on his life. He had been in the habit of drinking 
spirits very finely, and had a disease of the liver which ap- 
peared of some standing. At the time of his admission into 
Hanwell asylum, under the care of Sir W. Ellis, he was in a 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 139 

most emaciated state ; his legs scarcely able to support him. 
His face and body also were covered with an eruption ; tongue 
furred; his stools very dark: he was much depressed, and 
always moaning most piteously ; complained of heat and 
numbness in his head, and pain in all his limbs. Leeches and 
cold lotions were applied to his head, his bowels opened by 
calomel and colocynth, and he went into the warm bath every 
other day. He was much relieved by these means. He still 
continued, however, to moan as before. His tongue remained 
furred^ and stools unhealthy. He took five grains of blue pill 
every alternate night for some time. These were then left oft 
awhile ; no improvement taking place, he began the pills again, 
and continued them for two months, with evident advantage. 
His tongue was clean ; he was less depressed ; became strong, 
and gained flesh ; the biliary secretions were much improved. 
He is now occupied in the office ; and every day, as the action 
of the liver seems to improve, his mind makes a correspond- 
ing advance. 

There is no more firequent cause of suicide than visceral 
derangement, leading to melancholia and hypochondriasis. 
It has been a matter of dispute with medical men whether 
hypochondriacal affections have their origin in the mental or 
physical portion of the economy. Many maintain that the 
mind is the seat of the disease ; others, that the liver and sto- 
mach are primarily affected, and the brain only secondarily. 
In this disputed point, as in most others, truth will generally 
be found to Ue between the two extremities. That cases of 
hypochondria and melancholia can clearly be traced to purely 
mental irritation cannot for one moment be disputed ; and that 
there are many instances in which the derangement appears 
to have commenced in one of the gastric organs, is as equally 
self-evident. Whatever may be the origin of these affections, 
there can be no doubt of their producing most disastrous con- 
sequences. Burton's account of the horrors of hypochon- 
dria is truly graphic. " As the rain," says Austin, " pene- 
trates the stone, so does this passion of melancholy penetrate 



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140 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

the mind. It commonly accompanies men to their graves^ 
Physicians may ease, but they cannot cure it ; it may lie hid 
for a time, but it will return again, as violent as ever, on slight 
occasions, as well as on casual excesses. Its humour is like 
Mercury's weather-beaten statue, which had once been gilt; the 
sur&ce was clean and uniform, but in the chinks there was still 
a remnant of gold : and in the purest bodies, if once tainted 
by hypochondria, there will be some reUcs of melancholy 
still left, not so easily to be rooted out. Seldom does this dis- 
ease produce death, except (which is the most grievous cala- 
mity of all) when these patients make away with theinselves — 
a thing familiar enough amongst them, when they are driven 
to do violence to themselves to escape from present insuffer- 
able pain. They can take no rest in the night, or, if they 
slumber, fearful dreams astonish them. Their soul abhorreth 
all meat, and they are brought to death's door, being bound in 
misery and in iron. Like Job, they curse their stars, for Job 
was melancholy to despair, and almost to madness. They are 
weary of the sun, and yet afraid to die, vivere nolunt et mori 
nesciunt* And then, like iEsop's fishes, they leap from the 
frying pan into the fire, when they hope to be cured by means 
of physic — a miserable end to the disease ; when ultimately left 
to their fate by a jury of physician£f, are furiously disposed ; and 
there remains no more to such persons, if that heavenly phy- 
sician, by his grace and mercy, (whose aid alone avails,) do 
not heal and help them. One day of such grief as theirs is as 
a hundred years : it is a plague of the sense, a convulsion of 
the soul, an epitome of hell ; and if there be a hell upon 
earth, it is to be found in a melancholy man's heart No 
bodily torture is like unto it ; all other griefs are swallowed 
up in this great Euripus. I say the melancholy man then is 
jthe cream and quintessence of human adversity. All other 
diseases are trifles to hypochondria ; it is the pith and marrow 
of them all! A melancholy man is the true Prometheus, 
bound to Caucasus; the true Tityrus, whose bowels are still 
devoured by a vulture." 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 141 



** Dull melancholy 

She'll make you start at ev'ry noise you hear. 

And visions strange shall to your eyes appear. 

Her voice is low, and gives a hollow sound ; 

She hates the light, and is in darkness found ; 

Or sits by blinking lamps, or taper small, 

Which various shadows make against the wall. 

She loves nought else but noise which discord makes, 

As croaking frogs whose dwelling is in lakes ; 

The raven hoarse, the mandrake's hollow groan. 

And shrieking owls, that fly i'th' night alone ; 

The tolling bell, which for the dead rings out, 

A mill, where rushing waters run about. 

She loves to walk in the still moonshine light. 

And in a thick dark grove she takes delight ; 

In hollow caves, thatch'd houses, and low cells. 

She loves to live, and there alone she dwells." 

" There are individuals who, from various physical or moral 
causes," says Esquirol, " fall into a state of corporeal torpor 
and mental depression. They complain of want of appetite, 
dull pain in the head, sense of heat in the stomach and 
viscera, borborygmi, and constipation of the bowels ; while 
they exhibit little or no indication of disease. In the female 
sex, the natural secretions become suspended. As the com- 
plaint advances, the features alter, and the countenance exhi- 
bits anxiety ; the complexion becomes pale or sallow ; there 
is a sense of tightness, or even pain, in the epigastrium ; a 
kind of compression in the head, which prevents them from 
fixing their attention, or arranging their thoughts ; a general 
torpor or lassitude, which keeps them inactive. They dislike 
to move out, and love to loll about on a sofa ; they are irri- 
tated if you advise them to take exercise ; they abandon their 
ordinary avocations, neglect their domestic concerns, become 
indifferent to their nearest connexions; in short, they will 
neither converse, nor study, nor read, nor write, shunning so- 
ciety, and being impatient of the inquiries and importunities 
of friends. In this state they become filled with gloomy ideas 
{idees naires), despair of ever being better, desire or even 



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142 PHYSICAL CAUBE8 OF SUICIDE. 

invoke death, and sometimes destroy themselves, fixim a con- 
viction that they are no longer capable of fulfilling their duties 
in society. These people are perfectly sane on all subjects of 
conversation; their impulse to suicide being strong in pro- 
portion to the activity of their former avocations, and the 
importance of their former duties. I have seen their disease 
(for it is a disease) continue for months, and even years. I 
have seen it alternate with mania and with perfect health. 
I have seen patients who would be six months of the year 
maniacal or in sound health, and the other six months tor- 
mented with these gloomy ideas and impulses to suicide." 

In confirmation of this view of Esquirol's, the following cases 
are related : — A gentleman of apparently sound constitution, 
aged 32, was married to a woman whom he affectionately 
loved. His affairs became deranged a few years after his 
marriage, which greatly discouraged him, and rendered him 
inactive, but without apparently affecting his health. He 
now embarked in a speculation which promised much advan- 
tage, and at first applied himself to business with unremit- 
ting assiduiQr* In the course of a month he encountered 
some difficulties, which depressed him beyond measure. He 
considered himself ruined, refused to quit his bed, and 
would not superintend his workmen, fi*om a conviction that 
he was no longer capable of directing their operations. He 
complained of head-ache, heat in his stomach, &c. His 
affection for his wife and children, his pecuniary interests, all 
failed to rouse him firom this moral and physical prostration. 
He reasoned sanely on the critical state of his affairs, and yet 
made no effort to rescue himself fi:om his difficulties. Eight 
days passed in this way, when all at once he sprung fix)m his 
bed in perfect integri^ of mind and body. He resumed in- 
stantaneously all his activity for business, all his affection for 
his &inily. The same state, however, recurred ten or twelve 
times since, at irregular intervals, caused in general by trifling 
contrarieties of business, which, under other circumstances, 

* Diet, des Sciences Med., vol. liii. 



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PHT8ICAL CAUSES OF SUICIBE. 143 

would be considered as nothing. During several of these 
paroxysms he has impulses to suicide ; but this dreaded catas^ 
trophe has not yet taken place. 

A female was admitted into the Salpetriere on the 23d of 
September, 1819, in the 34th year of her age, and fourteen 
years after marriage. At the age of 21 she had a child^ after 
which she was affected with an ulcer in the foot, which was 
healed in six months. From this time she was troubled with 
cardialgia, at first slight, but afterwards with intense pain and 
vomiting of her food. At the age of 33 she became irresolute 
in her ideas and actions. She expressed an aversion for 
those things which she had been previously pleased with, and 
was occasionally incoherent After suffering from other de- 
rangements of her general health, she abandoned her house- 
hold affairs, became quite despondent, and tried more than 
once to commit suicide. In this state she was admitted into 
the hospital, and was put upon diluents, low diet, &c. As 
she shewed indications of having recovered, she was allowed 
to return to her family ; but in a short period she was harassed 
with gloomy ideas, despaired of recovery, and expressed a 
desire to quit Ufe, the duties of which she said she was no 
longer able to fulfil. 

In the case of Cowper, we have a melancholy instance of 
hypochondriasis leading to suicidal mental derangement 
That the poet's mind was unsound when he attempted to 
kill himseL^ must be evident to those who are conversant with 
the history of his'' life. He never appears to have been free 
firom hypochondriacal disorder. In a letter to Lady Hesketh, 
he says, ^^ Could I be translated to paradise, imless I could 
leave my body behind me, my melancholy would cleave to 
me there." A fiiend procured him the situation of reading 
clerk to the House of Lords, forgetting that the nervous 
shyness which made a pubUc exhibition of himself " mortal 
poison," would render it impossible for him ever to discharge 
the duties of his office. This difficulty presented itself to the 
mind of the poet, and gloom instantly enveloped his facul- 



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144 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

ties. At his request, his situation was changed to that of 
clerk of the journals ; but even before he could be installed 
into office he was threatened with a public examination 
before the House. This made him completely wretched ; he 
had not resolution to decline what he had not strength to do : 
the interest of his friend, and his own reputation and want of 
support, pressed him forward to an attempt which he knexv 
from the first could never succeed. In this miserable state, 
like Goldsmith's traveller, 

'* To stop too fearful, and too &int to go/' 

he attended every day for six months at the office where he 
was to examine the journals in preparation for his trust His 
feelings were like those of a man at the place of execution, 
every time he entered the office door; and he only gazed 
mechanically at the books, without drawing from them the 
least portion of information he wanted. As the time of his 
examination approached, his agony became more and more 
intense ; he hoped and believed that madness would come to 
relieve him ; he attempted also to make up his mind to sui- 
cide, though his conscience bore stem testimony against it ; 
he could not by any argument persuade himself that it was 
right ; but his desperation prevailed, and he procured from 
an apothecary the means of self-destruction. On the day 
before his public appearance was to be made, he happened to 
notice a letter in the newspaper, which to his disordered mind 
seemed like a malignant libel on himself. He immediately 
threw down the paper, and rushed into the fields, determined 
to die in a ditch ; but the thought struck him that he might 
escape from the country. With the same violence he pro- 
ceeded to make hasty preparations for his flight ; but while 
he was engaged in packing his portmanteau his mind changed, 
and he threw himself into a coach, ordering the man to drive 
to the Tower wharf, intending to throw himself into the river, 
and not reflecting that it would be impossible to accomplish 
his purpose, in that public spot, unobserved. On approaching 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 145 

the water^ he found a porter seated upon some goods; he 
then returned to the coach, and drove home to his lodgings 
in the Temple. On the way, he attempted to drink the lau- 
danum, but as often as he raised it, a convulsive agitation of 
his frame prevented its reaching his lips ; and thus, regretting 
the loss of the opportunity, but unable to avail himself of it, 
he arrived half dead with anguish at his apartments. He 
then closed the door and threw himself on the bed, with the 
laudanum near him, trying to lash himself up to the deed ; 
but a voice within seemed constantly to forbid it; and as 
often as he extended his hand to the poison, his fingers were 
contracted, and held back by spasms. At this time some of 
the inmates of the place came in, but he concealed his agita- 
tion ; and as soon as he was left alone, a change came over 
him, and so detestable did the deed appear, that he threw 
away the laudanum, and dashed the phial to pieces. The 
rest of the day was spent in heavy insensibility, and at night 
he slept as usual ; but on waking at three in the morning, 
he took his penknife and laid with his weight upon it, the point 
being directed towards his heart It was broken, and would 
not penetrate. At day-break he rose, and passing a strong 
garter round his necl^ fastened it to the frame of his bed. 
This gave way with his weight ; but on securing it to the door, 
he was more successfril, and remained suspended until he 
had lost all consciousness of existence. Aft;er a time, the 
garter broke, and he fell to the floor, so that his life was 
saved; but the conflict had been greater than his reason 
could endure. He felt a contempt for himself not to be ex- 
pressed or imagined. Whenever he went into the street, it 
seemed as if every eye flashed upon him with indignation and 
scorn. He felt as if he had ofiended God so deeply that his 
guilt could never be foi^iven, and his whole heart was filled 
with pangs of tumultuous despair.* 

* Previous to Cowper's attempt at suicide, he had fallen into the com- 
pany of two sophists, who both advanced claims to the right of self-destruc- 
tion, and whose fallacious arguments won him to their pernicious views, 

L 



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146 PHYSICAL CAU8B8 OP SUICIBS. 

When Cowper had once admitted the thought of self-de- 
•traction, he could not go into the street i^ithout meeting 
with something to tempt or drive him to the act It seemed to 
him as if the whole world had conspired to make death by his 
own hand inevitable. When he ventured into the streets, after 
the fiiilure of all his efforts, a ghastly shame and alarmed 
suspicion were his torments ; and perhaps nothing in Cowper's 
autobiography goes deeper into the heart than the following 
description of his sufferings. 

** I never went into the street but I thought the people 
stood and laughed at me, and held me in contempt; and could 
hardly persuade myself but that the voice of conscience was 
loud enough for any one to hear it They who knew me, 
appeared to avoid me, and if they spoke to me, seemed to 
do it in scorn. I bought a ballad of one who was singing 
it in the street, because I thought it was written on me. 
I dined alone, either at a tavern, where I went in the dark, 
or at the chop-house, where I always took care to hide myself 
in the darkest corner of the room. I slept generally an hour 
in the evening, but it was only to be terrified in dreams ; and 
when I awoke, it was some time before I could steadily walk 
through the passage into the dining-room. I reeled and 
staggered like a drunken man. The eyes of man I did not 
fear; but when I thought that the eyes of God were upon me, 
(which I felt assured of,) it gave me the most intolerable 
anguish. If, for a moment, a book or a companion stole away 
my attention fi:om myself a flash fix>m hell seemed to be 
thrown into my mind immediately; and I said within myself, 
* What are these things to me, who am damned?'" 

Cowper is not the only instance, however, of a man of ex- 
quisite taste and genius whose life has been rendered mise- 
rable by hypochondria. We have alluded elsewhere to Byron's 
morbid sensitiveness, and the reader's attention is now called to 

which were, besides, aided by his recollectioD of a certain book containiog 
similar reasoning, which, however weak in itself, now seemed to his dis- 
ordered mind irrefragable. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF StJICIDE. 147 

the influence of hypochondriasis on the poet's mind. He says 
in his journal, " What can be the reason I awake every 
morning in actual despair and despondency ? " He had a great 
apprehension of insanity. In order to overcome his melan- 
choly, considering that his diet had much to do with it, he 
put himself under a strict regimen, avoiding most scrupulously 
all animal food. He states that his diet for a week consisted 
of tea and six dry biscuits per diem. After having indulged 
in an ordinary dinner, he writes, ^^ I wish to Grod I had not 
dined now; it kills me with heaviness; and yet it was but a 
pint of bucellas, and fish. Oh, my head 1 how it aches 1 — ^the 
horrors of indigestion 1" Again he says, " This head was 
given me to ache with." After a severe fit of indigestion, he 
writes, " I've no more charity than a vinegar cruet Would 
that I were an ostrich, and dieted on fire-irons I O fool I I 
shall go mad!" 

Bums suffered much firom indigestion, producing hypochon- 
dria. Writing to his fiiend, Mr. Cunningham, he says, 
'^ Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ? Canst thou 
speak peace and rest to a soul tost on a sea of troubles, with- 
out one fiiendly star to guide her course, and dreading that 
the next surge may overwhelm her? Canst thou give to a 
firame trembUngly alive to the tortures of suspense the stability 
and hardihood of a rock that braves the blast ? K thou canst 
not do the least of these, why wouldst thou disturb me in my 
miseries with thy inquiries aft«r me?" From early life, the 
poet was subject to a disordered stomach, a disposition to 
head-ache, and irregular action of the heart 

He describes, in one of his letters, the horrors of his com- 
pliant: — ^I have been for some time pining under secret 
wretchedness. The pang of disappointment, the sting of 
pride, and some wandering stabs of remorse, settle on my Ufe 
like vultures, when my attention is not called away by the 
claims of society, or the vagaries of the muse. Even in the 
hour of social mirth my gaiety is the madness of an intoxi- 
cated criminal under the hands of an executioner. My con- 

l2 



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148 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

stitution was blasted ab oryine with a deep incurable taint of 
melancholy that poisoned my existence." 

Nothing can be more interesting to a physician who is en- 
dowed with only a moderate share of the spirit of observation 
than to watch the progress of hypochondriasis in a number of 
patients^ especially in regard to its effect on the mind. They 
always struggle, more or less in the beginning, with the lowness 
and dejection which affect them ; and it is not until many a 
severe contest has taken place between their natural good sense 
and the involuntary suggestions which arise from the obscure 
and painful feelings of the diseased nerves, that a firm belief 
in the reality of such thoughts gains a fiill conquest over their 
judgment. A firm belief in any one perception never takes 
place until it has acquired a certain degree of force ; and as all 
impressions which arise fix>m the viscera of the abdomen are 
naturally obscure, we see the reason why these must continue 
for a great length of time, or be often repeated, before they can 
withdraw a person's attention from the ordinary impression of 
external objects, which are clear and distinct, and before they 
acquire such a degree of vividness as to destroy the operations 
of reason. 

We meet every day vnth hypochondriacs in whom the dis- 
ease is just beginning to be formed, and who, being possessed 
of a good understanding, seem unwilling to tell, even to 
their medical friends, the singular, and often melancholy, 
thoughts with which they are tormented. They acknow- 
ledge them to be unreasonable, and yet insist that they 
cannot help believing in them. A very curious display of 
this kind of struggle between the habitudes of reason and the 
approach of delirium is to be found in the diary of an hypo- 
chondriac, from which we make the following extract : — 

** On the 14th of November, the idea that some person 
intended to kill me sprung up suddenly and involuntarily in 
my mind, and yet, I must confess, there was no reason why I 
should have harboured this thought, for I am convinced that 
ho one ever formed such a cruel design against me. People- 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 149 

who had a stick in their hands I looked on as murderers. As 
I was walking out of town^ a countryman happened to follow 
me^ and I was instantly filled with the greatest apprehension, 
and stood still to let him pass. I asked the fellow in a 
threatening voice, and with a view of intimidating him firom 
his purpose, what was the name of the town before us. The 
man answered my question and walked on, and I found great 
relief, because he was no longer behind me. 

" In the evening, I observed some water in the glass out of 
which I commonly drink, and I instantly believed it was 
poisoned. I therefore washed it carefiilly out, and yet I 
knew, at the same time, that I myself had left the water in it. 

" 18th November. — At particular periods I beheve all 
mankind have conspired to murder me. I think I am de- 
prived of my office ; that I am doomed to die of hunger ; and, 
to add to all this, I am tormented with horrid doubts con- 
cerning futurity, and these thoughts persecute me like furies. 
Those whom I used to love most, I now hate. I avoid my 
best firiends, and my dear wife appears to me a much worse 
kind of woman than she really is. 

" I cannot describe the exertion it requires to conquer in 
society the aversion I feel to my fellow-creatures, and to 
prevent my ill-humour firom breaking out against the most 
innocent people. When it really does so, I spare no one. I 
am sorry for it afterwards, but then I am too proud to 
acknowledge my error. 

** I find myself so enraged on seeing a stupid, vacant coun- 
tenance, that I have almost an irresistible inclination to box 
the person's ears to whom it belongs : the refraining fi"om it 
is a severe efibrt 

« 20th November. — A boy with a face like a satyr met me, 
and occasioned me the greatest uneasiness. Although he 
did nothing to displease me, I was forced to go to him, and 
tell him that I was sure he would die on the gallows. 

" 23rd November. — My sensibility is often extreme, and 
then my best firiends become insupportable to me. To their 



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150 FBT8ICAL CAUSES OP SUICIDS. 

expressioiis of regard I am either purposely cold or else I 
answer by rode and ofenshre speeches. lean 8eld<»n explain 
to myseUr the reason of this too great sensSHlity. If two 
people whi^)er to each other in my {Hesenoe, I grow uneasy, 
and lose all command of mind» becamse I think they are 
^>eakingill of me; and I oAen assume a satirical manner in 
ocMnpany, in order to frighten them. Anxiety, dreadful 
anxiety, seises me, if a pencm oreilooks my hand at cards, or 
if a person sits down beside me when I am playii^ the harp- 
sichord.'' 

** FrcMn numerous facts whidi have ccMne within my own 
observation,'' says a distinguished living medical authority,* ** I 
am convinced that many strange antipathies^ disgusts, capices 
of temper, and eccentricities which are considered solely as o^ 
liquities of intellect, have their source in ccNrporeal disorder. 

** The great majority ofthese complaints, whidiareconsidered 
as purely mental, such as irascibili^, melancholy, timidi^, 
and irresolution, might be gready remedied, if not entirely 
removed, by a proper system of temperance, and with very 
litde medicine. There is no accounting for the magio-like 
spell which annihilates for a time the whole eneigy of tiie mind, 
and renders the victim of dyspepsia afraid of his own shadow, 
or of things, if possible, more unsubstantial than shadows. 

^* It is not likely that the great men of the earth should be 
exempt from these visitations any more than the littie ; and if 
so, we may reasonably conclude, that there are otiier things 
beside 'conscience' which 'make cowards of us all,' and 
that, by a temporary gastric irritation, many an 'enterprise 
of vast pith and moment' has had 'its current turned away,' 
und ' lost the name of action.' 

" The philosopher and the metaphysician, who know but 
littie of these reciprocities of mind and matter, have drawn 
many a fiilse conclusion from, and erected many a baseless 
hypothesis on, the actions of men. Many a happy thought 

• Dr. J. Johnson. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 151 

has sprung from an empty stomach ; many a terrible and mer* 
ciless edict has gone forth in consequence of an irritated gastric 
nerve. Thus health may make the same man a hero in the 
field whom dyspepsia may render imbecile in the cabinet.** 

The following case will shew how powerfully indigestion 
may affect the mind's operations : — 

A young lady^ after eating some heavy paste, was attacked 
by a sensation of burning heat at the pit of the stomach, 
which increased till the whole of the upper part of the body, 
both extemaUy and internally, appeared to her to be all in 
flames. She rose up suddenly, left the dinner table, and ran 
into the street, from which she was immediately brought back. 
She soon came to herself and thus described her horrible 
fHeas. She declared that she had been very wicked, and had 
been dragged into the flames of helL She continued in a 
precarious situation for some time. Whenever she experi- 
enced the burning sensation of which she first complained, 
the same dreadftd thoughts occurred to her mind. She seized 
hold of whatever was nearest to prevent her from being 
forced away ; and such was her alarm that she dreaded to be 
alone. This lady had long been distressed by family con- 
cerns, and harassed by restless and sleepless nights, which 
greatly affected her health. 

Dr. Johnson used to declare that he inherited '' a vile 
melancholy" from his fitther, which made him '^ mad all his 
life, or, at least, not sober." Insanity was his constant 
terror. Boswell says that, at the period when this great 
philosopher was giving to the world proofii of no ordinary 
vigour of understanding, he actually £mcied himself insane, 
or in a state as nearly as possible approaching to it. 

Murphy says, ** For many years before Johnson's death, so 
terrible was the prospect of final dissolution that when he was 
not disposed to enter into the conversation which was going 
forward, he sat in his chair, repeating the well-known lines of 
Shakspeare — 

** To die, and go we know not where." 



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152 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

Like Metastasio, he would not, if he could help it, permit 
the word death to be pronounced in his presence. Boswell 
once introduced the topic in the course of conversation, which 
made Johnson highly indignant. He observed, that he never 
had a moment in which it was not terrible to him. 

Three or four days before he died, he declared that he 
would give one of his legs for a year more of life. The 
ruling passion was exhibited strong in death. At Dr. John- 
son's own suggestion, the surgeon was making slight punc- 
tures in the legs, with the hope of relieving his dropsical 
affection, when he cried out, " Deeper I deeper I I want length 
of lifey and you are afraid of giving me pain, which I do not 
value." K we had not a thorough conviction that this fear 
of death was but the result of physical disease, which no moral 
and religious principles could subdue. Dr. Johnson's conduct 
towards the end of his life would excite a feeling in our mind 
towards him very opposite to that of respect 

With reference to suicide, there is no fact that has been 
more clearly established than that of its hereditary charac- 
ter. Of all diseases to which the various organs are subject, 
there are none more generally transmitted from one gene- 
ration to another than affections of the brain. It is not 
necessary that the disposition to suicide should manifest 
itself in every generation ;' it often passes over one, and 
appears in the next, like insanity unattended with this 
propensity. But if the members of the family so predis- 
posed are carefully examined, it will be found that the 
various shades and gradations of the malady will be easily 
perceptible. Some are distinguished for their flightiness of 
manner, others for their strange eccentricity, likings and dis- 
likings, irregularity of their passions, capricious and excitable 
temperament, hypochondriasis and melancholia. These are 
often but the minute shades and variations of an hereditary 
disposition to suicidal madness. A gentleman suddenly, and 
without any apparent reason, cut his throat. The father had 
always been a man of strong passions, easily roused, and when 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 153 

SO5 was extremely violent The brother was a man of im- 
pulse ; he always acted by fits and starts, and therefore never 
could be depended upon. The sister had a strange, unnatural, 
and superstitious horror of particular colours and odours. A 
yellow dress caused a feeling approaching to syncope, and the 
smell of hay produced great nervous excitement The grand- 
father had been convicted of homicide, and had been confined 
for two years in a mad-house. 

Andral relates the case of a father who died from the 
effects of disease of the brain ; the mother died sane. They 
had six children, three boys and three girls. Of the boys, the 
eldest was a man of original mind ; the second was very ex- 
travagant in his habits, and was ultimately confined in a mad- 
house ; the third was extremely violent in his temper. Of the 
girls, one had fits of apoplexy, and became insane ; the other 
died at her accouchement, with symptoms of derangement ; 
the third died of cholera, not, however, until she exhibited 
indications of mental aberration. 

A case more singular than the last is recorded. All the 
members of a particular family, being hereditarily disposed, 
exhibited, when they arrived at a certain age, a desire to 
commit self-destruction. It required no exciting cause to 
develope the fatal disposition. No wish was expressed, or 
attempt made, to overpower the suicidal inclination, and the 
greatest industry and ingenuity were exercised by the parties 
in order to eflect their purpose. In two cases, the propensity 
was subdued by proper medical and moral treatment ; but, just 
in proportion to its being suppressed, did the idea of suicide 
appear to fix itself resolutely in the mind. The desire came 
upon the individuals like the attacks of intermittent fever. 

A. K., a man aged 57, was twice married. He was a shoe- 
maker by trade ; but not having received any education, his 
wife was compelled to attend to all his accounts. He had 
experienced, when young, a blow on the head, which occa- 
sionally gave him pain. He became very intemperate in his 
habits, and at particular intervals he exhibited an uncontrol- 



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154 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

lable temper, quarreUed with everybody, neglected bk busi- 
ness, abused his wife, and became extravagant and melancholy. 
During the paroxysm he would exclaim — " OA, my unlticky 
head! I am again a last manT When the attack subsided, he 
returned to his business, was affectionate to his wife and 
family, most humbly be^ed her pardon for having ill-treated 
her, and expressed the greatest contrition for his conduct 
These attacks came on at regular intervals. He procured a 
piece of rope for the purpose of hanging himself, and for some 
months carried it about with him in his pocket for that pur- 
pose. During one of his fits he effected his object His 
grandfather had strangled himself, and his brother and sister 
had attempted suicide. 

Dr. Gall knew several &milies in which the suicidal pro- 
pensity prevailed through several generations. Among the 
cases he mentions is the following very remarkable one: — 
"The Sieur Ganthier, the owner of various houses built 
without the barriers of Paris, to be used as entrepots of goods, 
left seven children, and a fortune of about two millions of 
francs to be divided among them. All remained at Paris, or 
in the neighbourhood, and preserved their patrimony; some 
even increased it by commercial speculations. None of them 
met with any real misfortunes, but all enjoyed good health, 
a competency, and general esteem. All, however, were pos- 
sessed with a rage for suicide, and all seven succumbed to it 
within the space of thirty or forty years. Some hanged, some 
drowned themselves, and others blew out their brains. One 
of the first two had invited sixteen persons to dine with him 
one Sunday. The company collected, the dinner was served, 
and the guests were at the table. The master of the house 
was called, but did not answer ; he was found hanging in the 
garret. Scarcely an hour before, he was quietly giving orders 
to the servants, and chattering with his fiiends. The last, 
the owner of a house in the Rue de Richelieu, having raised 
his house two stories, became fiightened at the expense, 
imagined himself ruined, and was anxious to kill himself 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 155 

Thrice they prevented him ; but soon after, he was found dead, 
having shot himself The estate, after all the debts were paid, 
amounted to three hundred thousand francs, and he might 
have been forty-five years old at the time of his death." 

Falret, whose researches have thrown much light on this 
affection, believes that it is more disposed to be hereditary 
than any other kind of insanity. He saw a mother and 
her daughter attacked with suicidal melancholy, and the 
grandmother of the latter was at Charenton for the same 
cause. An individual, he says, committed suicide in Paris. 
His brother, who came to attend the funeral, cried out on 
seeing the body — "What fetalityl My father and uncle 
both destroyed themselves; my brother has imitated their 
example; and twenty times during my journey hither I 
thought of throwing myself into the Seine I" 

Gall also relates the case of a dyer, of a veiy taciturn humour, 
who had five sons and a daughter. The eldest son, after 
being settled in a prosperous business with a family around 
him, succeeded, after many attempts, in killing himself by 
jumping fix>m the third story of his house. The second son, 
who was rather taciturn, had some domestic troubles, lost part 
of his fortune at play, and strangled himself at the age of 
thirty-five. The third threw himself fix)m the window into 
his garden, but did not hurt himself; he pretended he was 
trying to fly. The fourth tried one day to fire a pistol down 
his throat, but was prevented. The fifth was of a bilious, 
melancholic temperament, quiet, and devoted to business ; he 
and his sister shewed no signs of being affected with their 
brothers' malady. One of their cousins committed suicide. 

Among the physical causes of self-destruction, insidious 
affections of the brain must stand prominently forward. It is 
not oft;en that the physician is permitted to examine aftier death 
the state of this organ ; but there can be no doubt that, in the 
great majority of instances, the brain will be found to have 
undergone a serious structural alteration. "During the last 



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156 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

twenty-five years," says Dr. G. Mantell, **many cases of sui- 
cide have come under my notice in which the mental hallu- 
cination which led to self-destruction has depended on lesions 
of the brain, occasioned by slight or neglected injuries of the 
head, to which neither the patient nor his friends attached 
any importance. In several instances of self-destruction, 
without any assignable moral cause, and in which no previous 
signs of fatuity or insanity were manifested, I have found, 
upon a post mortem examination, either circumscribed in- 
duration or softening of the brain, or thickening and adhe- 
sions of some portions of its membranes. The conviction 
was forced upon my mind that very many of the so called 
nervous or hypochondriacal affections, which are generally 
considered as imaginary and dependent on mental emotions, 
are ascribable to physical causes, and frequently originate 
from slight lesions of the brain." 

The learned doctor relates the following cases in illustration 
of his views: — 

*' A respectable tradesman, between fifty and sixty years of 
age, of temperate habits, was knocked down during an elec- 
tioneering contest, and struck his head on the ground. He 
was stunned for a few minutes by the shock, and slightly 
bruised above the right temple, but experienced no further 
inconvenience, and the circumstance was considered of no 
consequence. 

"About six months after the event, he was seized, one 
evening, with rigors and a pain over the right brow ; a smart 
re-action took place, which terminated in perspiration, and 
the following morning, the symptoms disappeared. A similar 
paroxysm came on daily for five or six days ; the attack was 
considered intermittent, and, I believe, bark was freely admi- 
nistered. At the end of a week, the patient was welL After 
this period, he was subject to occasional pain over the right 
brow, accompanied with great mental despondency, the pre- 
vailing apprehension being that of eternal damnation. This 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 157 

state would continue for an uncertain time, the duration 
varying from a few days to three weeks ; and by slow degrees 
he would lose all trace of disease, regain his accustomed 
cheerfulness, and be able to transact the affairs of an extensive 
business. 

** About two years from the occurrence of the accident, I 
saw him, at the request of his friends, while he was labouring 
under great despondency, which his relations assured me 
arose from some religious opinions he had imbibed ; and I 
found that the medical treatment had been in accordance 
with such a notion. My inquiries led to the detection of the 
injury he had received two years previously, but neither the 
patient nor his friends would aUow that there was any con- 
nexion between the blow and the symptoms under which he 
now suffered. Both general and local bleeding appeared to 
me necessary ; a strict regimen was adopted, and he regained 
his usual flow of spirits, and expressed himself much better 
than he had been for years. The occasional use of leeches, 
and a rigid abstinence from fermented liquors, spirits, and 
stimuli of all kinds, maintained this favourable condition for 
a considerable time ^ but his occupation led him to occasional 
excess in diet, and a moderate quantity of wine or beer 
invariably brought on despondency and its accompanying 
hallucination ; in other words, when the system was kept in a 
tranquil state, the cerebral functions were not impaired; but 
when excited, the morbid manifestations of the mind were 
produced. 

'^During one of these attacks he cut his throat, and expired 
in the course of a few hours. A short time previous to his 
death, when greatly exhausted by the loss of blood from his 
wound, his intellect was unclouded, and he expressed to me 
his astonishment at what he had done, and assured me he had 
no reason for acting thus ; but it was an impulse which he 
could not resist 

" The only abnormal appearance upon inspecting the body 
afler death was, a circumscribed adhesion of the dura mater 



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158 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

to the pia mater, to the extent of about two inches in diame- 
ter, over the upper and anterior portion of the right hemi- 
sphere of the brain, opposite to the spot where the blow of the 
head had been inflicted some years previously. 

^' I will not presume to offer any comment on a case which I 
am well aware presents nothing unusual, my only object being 
that of calling particular attention to those slight injuries of 
the head which, although unmarked by any striking symptoms 
at the moment of their occurrence, may give rise to the most 
distressing results years after their infliction, and when the 
original cause of disordered action is forgotten, and can no 
longer be detected ; and of pointing out the possibility that 
many cases of suicide, apparently referrible to moral causes 
only, may be found to result solely from physical derangement 
of the organ through which the manifestations of the mind 
must be displayed. It is under circumstances of this kind 
that the medical philosopher, in his painful duty of exploring 
the relics of mortality, may have the high gratification of pro- 
tecting the memory of an unfortunate individual from the 
censure of a world but too apt to judge harshly, and thus 
afford a lasting consolation to those by whom that memory 
will be cherished and revered." 

No complaints can be more insidious than those connected 
with the brain. An apparently slight blow on the head in 
early life has been known, if not to give rise at the time to 
actual disease of the sentient organ, to predispose the person 
to attacks of cerebral derangement when exposed to the influ- 
ence of causes so trivial as to be incapable, under any other 
circumstances, of producing any effect The following case 
will demonstrate that moral irritation may derange the struc- 
ture of the brain as effectually as any physical injury : — 

A gentleman in early life was exposed for a few weeks to an 
amount of mental excitement ahnost sufficient to bring on a 
severe maniacal attack. He complained for some time of a 
sensation in his head as if some person was hammering on his 
brain. In the course of a few years he apparently recovered. 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 159 

During a tour through Italy^ he had a renewal of his old sen- 
sation, and became liable to head-aches, giddiness, and se- 
vere attacks of indigestion. He placed himself under the 
care of an Italian physician of eminence, who did his best 
to restore him to health. Instead of improving, the symptoms 
of his disease became more apparent ; and one morning he 
was found dead on the floor of his dressing-room, having with 
a penknife efiectually divided the carotid artery. On ex- 
amining the brain, extensive ramolUssement was discovered. 
In this case the structural disease originated in a moral shocks 
the effects of which remained suspended for some years, and 
then gave rise to the train of symptoms that drove the unfor- 
tunate man to terminate his life. It is one of the most im- 
portant &cts connected with this subject, that mental excite- 
ment may produce as extensive and serious organic disease as 
that which so commonly follows the receipt of physical injury. 
With a knowledge of this fact, how cautious we ought to be in 
pronouncing an opinion as to the absence of disease of the 
brain in cases of suicide resulting from an apparently trifling 
departure from mental quietude, without being intimate with 
the previous history of the individuaL 

**The English," says Montesquieu, "frequendy destroy 
themselves without any apparent cause to determine them to 
such an act, and even in the midst of prosperity. Among 
the Romans, suicide was the effect of education ; it depended 
upon their customs and manner of thinking : with the English, 
it is the effect of disease, and depending upon the physical 
condition of the system." A young man, twenty-two years 
of age, was intended by his parents for the church. He dis- 
liked the profession exceedingly, and absolutely refiised to 
take orders. For this act, at once of integrity and disobe- 
dience, he was forced to quit his father's house, and to exert 
his inexperienced energies for a precarious subsistence. He 
turned his thoughts to several different employments ; and, 
at length, he went to reside with a family, where he was 
treated with great kindness, and where he appeared to enjoy 



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160 PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 

a degree of tranquillity. His enjoyment, however, was not 
of long continuance, for his imagination was assailed by 
gloomy and distressing reflections. His life became more and 
more burdensome to him, and he considered by what method 
he should put an end to it He one day formed the reso- 
lution of precipitating himself from the top of the house, 
but his courage failed him, and the execution of the project 
was postponed. Some days after, he took up a pistol with 
the same design of self-destruction. His perplexities and 
terrors returned. A friend of this unhappy youth called 
upon Pinel one day to inform him of the projected tragedy. 
Every means of prevention were adopted that prudence could 
suggest, but the most pressing solicitations and friendly re- 
monstrances were in vain. The propensity to suicide unceas- 
ingly haunted him, and he precipitately quitted the fitmily 
from whom he had experienced so many proofs of friend- 
ship and attachment. Financial considerations prohibited the 
suggestion of a distant voyage or a change of climate. He 
was therefore advised, as the best substitute, some constant 
and laborious employment The young melancholic, sensibly 
alive to the horror of his situation, entered fully into Pinel's 
views, and procured an engagement at Bled Harbour, where 
he mingled with the other labourers with a full determination 
to deserve his stipulated wages. But, completely fatigued 
and exhausted by the exertion of the first two days of his 
engagement, he was obliged to have recoiuse to some other 
expedient He entered into the employment of a master- 
mason, in the neighbourhood of Paris, to whom his services 
were peculiarly acceptable, as he devoted his leisure hours to 
the instruction of an only son. No situation, apparently, 
could have been more suitable to his case than one of this 
kind, admitting of alternate mental and bodily exercise. 
Wholesome food, comfortable lodgings, and every attention 
due to misfortune, seemed rather to aggravate than to divert 
his gloomy propensities. After the expiration of a fortnight, 
he returned to his friend, and, with tears in his eyes, ac- 



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PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE. 161 

quainted him with the internal struggles which he felt, and 
the insuperable disgust of life, which bore him irresistibly 
to self-destruction. The reproaches of his friend a£Pected 
him exceedingly, and, in a state of the utmost anxiety and 
despair, he silently withdrew, probably to terminate a hated 
existence by throwing himself into the Seine. 

When laying down rules for the physical treatment of suicide, 
we have developed our view as to the influence of derangement 
of the prinuB vice, suppressed secretions, &c., on the healthy 
state of the mind ; and we have only to refer the reader to that 
portion of the work for information on these points. In dis- 
cussing the important question whether suicide invariably 
results from mental derangement, numerous instances have 
been brought forward that may be undoubtedly traced to that 
cause, therefore it will not be necessary to recapitulate in this 
chapter what has been there advanced. 



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162 



CHAPTER IX. 



MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

Diseases of the biain not dissimilar to affections of other organs — Early 
symptoms of insanity — ^The good effects of having plenty to do^Occu- 
pation — Dr. Johnson's opinion on the subject — ^The pleasure derived 
from cultivating a taste for the beauties of nature — Effect of volition on 
diseases of the mind — Silent grief injurious to mental health — ^Treatment 
of enniM— The time of danger, not the time of disease — The Walcheren 
expedition — The retreat of the ten thousand Greeks under Xenophon — 
Influence of music on the mind in the cure of disease — Cure of epidemic 
suicide — Buonaparte's remedy — How the vromen of Myletus vrere cured 
of the disposition to suicide, and other illustrations — Cases shewing how 
easily the disposition to suicide may be diverted — On the cure of insanity 
by stratagems — On the importance of removing the suicidal patient from 
his own home — On the regulation of the passions. 

In treating this most important class of affections^ we must 
dismiss from our minds all those pre-conceived notions which 
we have been led to form of what constitutes mental derange- 
ment We must view the subject as medical philosophers in 
the most liberal acceptation of the term, and not as nisi prim 
barristers ; we must consider ourselves at the bed-side of a 
suffering patient, demanding from our skill that relief which 
he is led to believe we have in our power to afford, and not 
as in a court of justice, undergoing an examination at the 
hands of a lawyer anxious to establish his case ; and, above all, 
we must apply to the disease of the brain and its disordered 
manifestations those pathological principles which guide us in 
the elucidation of the affections of other oi^ans. If we con- 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 163 

sider insanity not as a specific disease invariably exhibiting 
the same phenomena, but as it really is, the effect of a disor- 
dered condition of the sentient organ, having an incipient, as 
well as an advanced stage, we may, by a judicious application 
of the principles of therapeutics, succeed in many cases in 
crushing the disposition to suicide before it has taken a formi- 
dable hold of the constitution. In the great majority of cases 
the premonitory indications are well marked and unequivocal. 
The experienced physician and accurate observer will be able 
to detect, before the mental alienation becomes apparent to 
others, the early dawnings of derangement He knows that 
it is frequently manifested by some change in the person's 
usual healthy habits of thinking and acting, — ^by the exhibition 
of odd fiuicies and whims. Although surrounded by everything 
calculated to contribute to his happiness, he is the most miser- 
able of human beings. Trifles annoy and irritate him ; he 
sees in his dearest friends his deadliest enemies; talks of con- 
spiracies, of plots, and stratagems; becomes suspicious of 
everything and everybody; his former objects of pleasure 
afford him no delight ; he avoids society, and is occasionally 
heard muttering strange things to himself. In the majority of 
cases these are the early dawnings of cerebral disease leading 
to unequivocal insanity, and yet so tied down are we to defini- 
tions, arbitrary standards and poetical tests, that we will not 
admit derangement of mind to be present until the symptoms 
are so self evident and glaring that the condition of the mind 
becomes apparent to the most superficial observer. When this 
view of insanity is recognised as orthodox, and moral treat- 
ment adopted in the early stages of the disease, much good 
may be expected to result. 

How often do we see in society, and during the intercourse 
of private fiiendship, individuals complaining of the severest 
mental sufferings, the effect of morbid alterations of feeling 
almost in every respect similar to insanity, dependent upon 
the same causes, manifesting the same symptoms, and removed 
by the same remedial agents. How are these mental ailments 

M 2 



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164 MORAL TREATBfENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA, 

treated ? The poor sufferer is perhaps smiled at ; he is consi- 
dered to be fanciful, and no regard is paid to the cerebral 
affection. The disease is allowed to advance until other 
feculties of the mind are implicated, and then the mental 
alienation exhibits itself so unequivocally that no one doubts 
its existence. 

The success of the mental treatment of suicide will be 
mainly dependent on our paying strict attention to those 
apparently trifling alterations of temper and disposition, 
those deviations from the usual mode of thinking and acting, 
which so often predicate the presence of the incipient stage 
of insanity. An invincible love of solitude exhibited in a 
patient considered as labouring under an hypochondriacal 
affection, and who, when induced to converse, complains 
of being constantly pestered with one or two trains of ideas 
from which he cannot for a moment escape, although his 
efforts are great and unremitting, let his friends beware. 
These changes are, however, but rarely noticed, until some 
alarming event causes every friend to lament the want of timely 
attention. 

Occupation is an infallible specific for many of the imagi- 
nary and real ills of life. In cases where the mind is sinking 
under the influence of its own weight, and the fancy is aUowed 
to dwell uninterruptedly on the ideas of its own creation, until 
the individual believes himself to stand apart from all the 
world, the very personification of human misery and wretched- 
ness, the physician can recommend no better remedy than 
constant and steady occupation for the mind and body. Bur- 
ton concludes his able work on Melancholy with this valuable 
piece of advice : — " Be not solitary ; be not idle." Dr. Reid 
recommended a patient, labouring under great mental depres- 
sion, to engage in the composition of a novel, which, during 
the time he was occupied in the task, effected much good. 
By interesting himself in the distresses of fictitious beings, he 
diverted his attention from sufferings which were no less the 
o£&pring of the imagination. 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICmAL MANIA. 165 

It has been suggested with great truth that the habit of 
gaming, prevalent as it is among persons in the upper ranks 
of life, is not to be attributed exclusively to a feeling of ava- 
rice. The man who is surrounded by everything to make his 
condition in life happy, as far as wealth is concerned, does not 
fly to dice for the purpose of aggrandisement, but he does so 
to seek refuge jfrom the miseries of indolence and vacuity ; 
from the gnawings of his own mind ; from an eager desire to 
expose himself to that mental agitation which nature tells him 
is so necessary to make life supportable. " A woman is hap- 
pier than a man," says Dr. Johnson, " because she can hem a 
pocket-handkerchief." 

Our faculties, like the vulture of Prometheus, devour our 
souls, if they have no action beyond ourselves. " Real lassi- 
tude is always mingled with grief," says an eminent female 
genius; and Madame de Stael considers the observation a 
profound one. 

** The man in the Spectator who hanged himself to avoid 
the intolerable annoyance of having to tie his garters every 
day of his life, is but a satire on the misery of many who, 
having no useful occupation, find the flight of time marked 
only by the swift repetition of petty troubles. 

^' The restlessness of Rousseau, his discontented and mor- 
bidly irritable disposition, was closely allied to insanity; 
and the painful struggles of Lord Byron, when * came the 
fit again,' are detailed in words which shew too plainly how 
they disturbed and threatened the integrity of his judgment 
In such natures, every strong emotion, or the occurrence of 
disease, may destroy the delicate balance, and make a ruin of 
a mind which even in ruins continues to excite a mournful 
admiration. The diversion of social intercourse, which to 
other men is necessary to prevent mental torpor, becomes to 
them a source of irritation by impeding the workings of their 
imagination : they find that, when alone, all the nobler aspira- 
tions of the soul are firee, and images of beauty, and virtue, 
and wisdom, occupy the mind. Society transforms them into 



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166 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

a being they despise, deprives them of all their high and 
valued thoughts, and it enables them to feel what slight cir- 
cumstances, acting on the man without, may affect the man 
within. But the pleasures of solitude are transient; their 
train is followed by baseless fancies, by fears undefined, by 
griefi unexpressed, and black despondency, firom which so- 
ciety can alone relieve. We learn, from observing such effects, 
arising from such causes, the advantage of mixed and varied 
occupations, suited to a being not made solely for contempla* 
tion or for action ; and we may gather rules fr(un these obser- 
vations, the application of which to minds in a morbid state is 
very direct" * 

With no less beauty than truth has the author of Rasselas 
depicted the insanity of the astronomer as gradually declining 
under the sanative influence of society and mental gratifica- 
tion* The sage confesses, that since he has mixed in the 
gay scenes of life, and divided his hours by a succession of 
amusements, he found the notion of his influence over the 
skies gradually fade away, and began to trust less to an 
opinion which he could never prove to others, and which 
he now found subject to variations from causes in which 
reason had no part. " If," says he, " I am accidentally left 
alone for a few hours, my inveterate persuaaon rushes upon 
my soul, and my thoughts are chained down by an uncon- 
trollable violence; but they are soon disentangled by the 
prince's conversation, and are instantaneously released by the 
entrance of Pekuah. I am like a man habitually afi^d of 
spectres, who is set at ease by a lamp, and wonders at the 
dread which harassed him in the dark." 

It is diflicult to lay down general rules for the treatment of 
particular cases of melancholia with a tendency to suicide. 
Travelling, agreeable society, works of light literature, should 
be had recourse to, in order to dispel all gloomy apprehensions 
from the mind. 

* Vide Dr. ConoUy. 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANL4. 167 

In persons predisposed to insanity, or who manifest some 
slight indication of disease, how important it is to endeavour 
to call into exercise the higher faculties of the mind, — the 
judgment and reasoning powers, — ^and thus preserve the intel- 
lectual faculties in a healthy state of equilibrium* There is 
much wisdom in Lord Bacon's advice, that '' if a man's wits 
be wandering, he should study the mathematics." The pa- 
tient should be taught to derive a pleasure from the contem- 
plation of those objects that a£Pord variety, and that are always 
within his reach. A beneficent Creator has wisely placed 
around us endless sources of the purest and most elevating 
enjoyments. In a ratio to our intellectual attainments, so are 
we enabled to derive pleasure from circumstances that appear 
trifling and foolish to others. Mungo Park could, in the soli- 
tude of an African desert, when exposed to the most distress- 
ing circumstances, derive a most exquisite pleasure from the 
sight of a small flower. How fully can we enter into the 
feelings of the man who, after being prostrated to the earth 
by an accumulation of worldly disappointments, yet spoke in 
a tone of noble triumph at his having retained, amidst the 
wreck of all his hopes, a perception of the beauties of nature ! 

" I care not. Fortune, what you me deny ;— 

You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace ; 
You cannot shut the windows of the sky. 

Through which Aurora shews her bright'ning face ; 

Yon cannot bar my constant feet to trace 
The woods and lawns by living stream at eve : 

Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace. 
And I these toys to the great children leave : 
Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave." 

A devotion to the common pleasures of sense is better than 
a state of absolute indiflerence ; for even if these give no kind 
of pleasure, whilst all higher pursuits are neglected, there is 
danger lest a man become of the same opinion as Dr. Dar- 
win's patient, " that all which life affords is a ride out in the 
morning, and a warm parlour and a pack of cards in the 



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168 MORAL TREATlfENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

afternoon;'' and, like him, finding these pleasures not in- 
exhaustible, should shoot himself because he has nothing 
better to do I 

The miserable man should endeavour to make himself 
practically acquainted with the distresses of others. How- 
ever desperate the circumstances of a person may be, he 
may still have it in his power to whisper a word of conso- 
lation to one whose situation may be more humiliating than 
his own. 

Human nature is accused of much more selfishness than it 
has any just claim to ; a thousand kindly emotions break in 
upon and redeem our daily and interested life. 

" The poorest poor 
Long for a moment in a weary life 
When they can know and feel that they have been 
Themselves the fathers and the dealers out 
Of some small blessings ; have been kind to such 
As needed kindness ; for this single cause. 
That we have all one human heart." * 

How few have anything like a proper conception of the 
power which the will can be made to exercise over the physical 
and mental ailments.f The stimuli which we all more or 
less have at command, if properly directed, will often subdue 
the early dawnings of disease, which, if permitted to take its 
own course, would have assumed a most formidable character. 
It is our duty to combat with the first menace of disordered 
feeling. Once the enemy is allowed to take up a fevourable 
position, it will be finiitless to enter single-handed into the 
contest '^ I will be good," says the child, when he sees the 
rod ready to direct the will into the way of goodness ; and 
** I will be cheerful," ought the dull and dyspeptic to say, who 
observes a cloud of hypochondriacal fancies ready to burst 
upon his head. It may be said it is useless to struggle against 

♦ Wordsworth, 
t The possunt quia posse videuntur feeling is not sufficiently encouraged 
by medical philosophers in treating mental affections. 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 169 

the natural tendencies of the mind and body, or to declare 
war with habits which have become firmly rooted in the con- 
stitution. In reply to this we would say, let not the patient 
yield to the influence of those causes which have formed 
the habit; let him not hug to his bosom the viper which 
is preying upon his mind; let him not exclaim to gloom, 
** Henceforth be thou my god." 

The hypochondriac may say, when advised to rouse him- 
self fi*om his state of mental despondency, and to exhibit the 
attributes of a free agent — 

" Go, you may call it madness, folly ; 
You shall not chase my gloom away : 
There's such a charm in melancholy, 
I would not, if I could, be gay." 

But it is exercising a conscientious dvty to resist the encroach- 
ments of those ideal pleasures which sap the foundation of our 
moral constitution. 

I am inclined to concur in the opinion expressed by the 
late Dr. Uwins, that when melancholy is stripped of all its 
ornamental and poetical accompaniments, it will be found to 
be based in a great measure upon pride, selfishness, and in- 
dolence. This benevolent physician observes — ** I cannot 
conceive a more delightful spectacle than that of an individual, 
whose constitutional cast is melancholy, warring against his 
temperament, and determining to enter with hilarity into the 
scenes and circumstances of social life." 

Dr. Haindorft, in his German translation of Dr. Reid's 
** Essay on Hypochondriasis," in alluding to the possibility of 
the patient labouring under hypochondria being able, by an 
exercise of the power of volition, to control his morbid sen- 
sations, justly observes — ** We should have fewer disorders of 
the mind if we could acquire more power of volition, and en- 
deavour, by our own energy, to disperse the clouds which oc- 
casionally arise within our own horizon ; if we resolutely tore the 
first threads of the net which gloom and ill-humour may cast 



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170 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

around us, and made an effort to drive away the melancholj 
images of a morbid imagination by incessant occupation. 
How beneficial would it be to mankind if this truth were uni- 
versally acknowledged and acted upon — viz., that our state of 
health, mental as well as bodily, principally depends upon 
ourselves r 

*' By teeming gm/, we grow to what we seem." 

It was the remark of a mj^n of great observation and know- 
ledge of the world — " Only wear a mask for a fortnight, and 
you will not know it from your real face." 

** I am determined to believe myself a happy man," said a 
poor fellow, sunk in the lowest stage of melancholy, to Es- 
quirol ; and he did endeavour to triumph over his gloomy ap- 
prehensions, and for a short period he enjoyed the sunny 
aspect of life ; but not having sufficient resolution to continue 
this effort of volition, he again gave way to despair. 

A thousand years before the Christian era, there were, at 
the two extremities of Egypt, temples devoted to Saturn, to 
which those labouring under hypochondriasis resorted in quest 
of relief Some cunning priests, profiting by the credulity 
of these patients, associated with the pretended miracles 
of their powerless divinities and barren mysteries, natural 
means by which they always solaced their patients, and suc- 
ceeded often in effecting cures by amusing the mind, and 
withdrawing the attention firom the contemplation of physical 
suffering. The patients were religiously subjected to a variety 
of diversions and recreative exercises. Voluptuous paintings 
and seducing images were exposed to their view ; agreeable 
songs and melodious sounds perpetually charmed their ears ; 
gardens of flowers and ornamental groves furnished delightfiil 
walks and delicious perfiimes. Every moment was conse- 
crated to some diverting scene and amusement, which had a 
most beneficial result on the diseased mind, interrupted the 
train of melancholy thought, dissipated sorrow, and wrought 
the most salutary changes on the body through the agency 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL BfANIA. 171 

of the mind. The Egyptian physicians recommended their 
patients to repair to these famous temples^ as the faculty of 
the present day suggest a trip to a fashionable spa. 

That many suicides result from an indulgence in long-con* 
tinned and corroding grief must be apparent to all who have 
given this subject any consideration. The medical man will 
find it difficult to manage such patients. Everything should 
be done to rouse the person from his state of mental abstrac- 
tion. The immortal poet had a just conception of the baneful 
influence of silent grief on the mind and body ; he makes 
Malcolm say, imploringly, to Macbeth, 

** Give sorrow words ; the grief that does not speak 
Whispers the o'er- wrought heart, and bids it break." 

An eminent London physician communicated to me the 
particulars of the following case: — A young lady, connected 
with a &mily of rank, and possessing great accomplishments, 
had formed, unknown to her parents, a secret attachment to a 
gentleman who often visited the house. When it was dis- 
covered, he was requested to abandon all notions of the lady, 
as it was the determination of her relations to reftise their 
consent to an alliance with him. Both parties took it much 
to heart The lady suffered from a severe attack of nervous 
disorder, which terminated in suicidal mania. She endea- 
voured several times to jump out of the window, and would 
have done so had she not been most carefully watched. Her 
symptoms were most distressing. The mind appeared to be 
weighed down to the earth by an accumulation of misery and 
wretchedness, which she was unable to shake off. '* Oh I 
could I but be happy I" she would exclaim. **Will no one 
come to my relief? What can I do ?" She would walk about 
the room, occasionally giving utterance to expressions similar 
to those just quoted. More than once she observed, that, 
could she cry, she felt assured her mind would be relieved ; 
but not a tear could she shed. After a fearful stru^le for 



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172 MORAL TBBATMBNT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

some time, one eyeniiigy as she was retiring to rest, she burst 
into a flood of tears. The effect was most beneficial ; fix>m 
that moment she began to recover. The copious lachrymal 
secretion had the effect of relieving the cerebral congestion^ 
and in this way the bndn was restored to the performance of 
its healthy functions. 

It is difficult to lay down any particular instructions for the 
treatment of ennui. How is it possible to restore enjoyment 
to a man who has quite exhausted it? In such cases the ad- 
vice which Fen^lon gives to Dionysius the tyrant, by the 
mouth of Dic^nes, will naturally apply, — ** To restore his 
appetite, he must be made to feel hunger; and to make his 
splendid palace tolerable to him, he must be put into my 
tub, which is at present empty." 

A lady became insane in consequence of a sudden and un- 
expected acquisition of wealth. In a few months she was re- 
duced, by the failure of the house in which all her property 
was embarked, to complete indigence. Being compelled to 
work for her daily bread, her reason was soon restored. The 
great preservative from tedium vittB is, in keeping the mind 
and body in a state of healthy activity. How true it i 



'' That many ills o*er which man grieves, 
And still more woman, spring from not employing 
Some hours to make the remnant worth enjoying/' 

Byron. 
In the army, it is proverbial that the time of fatigue and 
danger is not the time of disease ; it is during the inactive and 
listless months of a campaign that crowds of patients pass to 
the hospitals. In both these cases it is the active exercise of 
the mind giving strength to the brain, and through it, healthy 
vigour to the body, which produces the effect. Shakspeare 
has not been unobservant of the consequences of excitement 
of mind on the bodily functions. In King Henry IV., when 
Northumberland is told of the fetal tidings from Shrewsbury, 
and is informed of the death of his son Percy, he breaks out, — 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 173 

" For this I shall have time enough to mourn. 
Id poison there is physic ; and these news 
That would, had I been well, have made me sick, 
Being sick, have in some measure made me well : 
And as a wretch whose fever-weakened joints, 
Like strengthless hinges, buckle under life. 
Impatient of his fit, breaks like a fire 
Out of his keeper's arms ; even so my limbs, 
Weakened with grief, being now enraged with grief. 
Are thrice themselves." 

In illustration of the same principle, we have only to refer 
our readers to the ever-memorable Walcheren expedition. It 
has been stated that while our troops and seamen were 
actively engaged in the siege and bombardment of Flushing, 
exposed to intense heat, heavy rains, and poisonous exhala- 
tions from the malarious soil, inundated by the turbid waters 
of the Scheldt, scarcely a man was on the sick list; the ex- 
citement of warfare, the prospects of victory, and the expect- 
ation of booty, completely fortifying the body against all the 
potent causes of disease that environed the camp and the 
fleet 

In the celebrated retreat of the "Ten thousand Greeks'* 
under Xenophon, the troops were subjected to great mental 
despondency. They had to cross rapid rivers, penetrate 
gloomy forests, drag their weary way over vast and burning 
deserts, scale the summits of rugged mountains, and wade 
through deep snows and pestilent morasses, in continual fear 
of death or capture. It was a sense of the despondency which 
misfortune was producing among the troops that induced 
Xenophon, in his address to his companions on the fearful 
night which preceded the murder of Clearchus, to say, " The 
soldiers have at present nothing before their eyes but mis- 
fortune. If any one can persuade them to turn their thoughts 
into action it would greatly encourage them." It was to effect 
this purpose that the consummate general ordered everything 
in the camp, except the sword, to be abandoned. He in- 
spired the hopes of his soldiers, roused their minds into 



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174 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

activity, and thus prevented the development of serious dis- 
ease among the troops. 

Lord Anson says, in speaking of the ravages which the 
scurvy made under his command, that ** whatever discouraged 
the seamen, or damped their hopes, never failed to add new 
vigour to the distemper ; for it usually killed those who were 
in the last stages of it, and confined those to their hammocks 
who before were capable of some kind of duty." 

In certam diseases of the nervous system, particularly when 
associated with morbid conditions of the mind leading to 
suicide, the influence of music may be had recoiu-se to with 
great advantage to the patient The ancients, who paid more 
attention to the moral treatment of disease than the modems 
have done, had a just appreciation of the beneficial effect of 
music on the nervous system. The learned Dr. Bianchini 
has collected all tiie passages found in ancient authors relative 
to the medical application of music ; and from these it appears 
that it was used as a remedy by the Egyptians, Hebrews, 
Greeks, and Romans, not only in chronic, but in acute cases 
of disease. 

M. Burette, in his able and scientific work on music, allows 
it to be possible, and even probable, that music, by the im- . 
pressions it makes upon the nerves, may be of use in the 
cure of certain maladies ; yet he by no means supposes the 
music of the ancients possessed this power in a greater de- 
gree than that of the modems. Homer attributes the cessa- 
tion of the plague among the Greeks, at the siege of Troy, to 
music: — 

" With hymns divine the joyous banquet ends, 
The paeans lengthened till the sun descends : 
The Greeks, restored, the grateful rites prolong; 
Apollo listens and approves the song." 

POPB. 

In the Memoirs of the French Academy of Sciences, for 
1707 and 1708, there are many accounts of cases of disease 
which, after haying long resisted and baffled the most effi- 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA* 175 

cacious remedies, had yielded under the influence of the 
soft impressions of harmony ; and M. de Mairan, in the same 
records, published in 1735, has entered very fully into the 
consideration of the modus operandi of music on the body 
in health and disease. 

The eflFect of music on the system is explained in two dif- 
ferent ways. The monotony of the sound is supposed to have 
a soothing influence over the mind, similar to what is known 
to result from the gurgle of a mimic cataract of some moun- 
tain nD, or to a distant waterfall. How often has the music 
caused by the waves gently dashing upon the beach excited 
sleep, when all our narcotics have failed in producing a simi- 
lar effect This soporific effect of the repetition or monotony 
of sound is beautifully alluded to by Mackenzie, in his Man 
of Feeling. When his hero, Mr. Harley, arrives in London, 
he finds that the noise and varied excitement of the metro- 
polis increase his nervous state of habit, and prevent him 
from sleeping. Ordinary narcotics produce no effect upon 
him, and he must have continued to suffer from watchfulness 
if he had not happily touched his shoe-buckle, which lay 
upon the table, when the vibration produced a monotonous 
sound so closely resembling the voice of his good aunt, who 
nightly read him asleep in the country, that from that time 
he regularly apjdied to the same narcotic, and always slept 
soundly. Music acts, secondly, by causing an association of 
agreeable ideas. A lady who was confined in an asylum in 
the vicinity of Lond(Hi, and who had been separated for some 
months from her home, and from all she held dear, was pro- 
nounced partially convalescent. She was, however, still 
melancholy ; and it was suggested by her father that a piece, 
of which she was passionately fond, and which was associated 
with the happiest period of her life, should be played within 
her hearing. This wish was complied with ; the effiect pro- 
duced was highly gratifying. For the first few minutes, no 
notice was taken of the music ; in a short period, however, a 
smile was seen to play upon a countenance where all had 



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176 MORAL TRBATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA, 

been dark and gloomy for months. As the music proceeded, 
the effect became more sensible and powerful ; ideas of a most 
pleasurable kind appeared to rush upon a mind which had 
previously been a blank ; a chord had been touched which 
thrilled through her, until she appeared absorbed in the pleas^ 
ing associations which the fitvourite air had conjured to her 
recollection. The past was no longer forgotten, and she for 
the first time gave evidence of being conscious of the situation 
in which she was in. A fisital blow had been given to the 
disease, and in a short period she was considered sufficiently 
recovered to be allowed to return home to the bosom of her 
fiunily. 

The disease of Saul was alleviated by David's harp. 
Aristotle maintains that actual madness in horses may be 
cured by the melody of lutes. *^ Experience has proved," 
says Gibbon, *^ that the mechanical operation of sounds, by 
quickening the circulation of the blood and spirits, will act on 
the human machine more forcibly than the eloquence of 
reason and honour." In illustration of the above observation 
the following &ct may be adduced : — At the battle of Quebec, 
in April, 1760, while the troops were retreating in great con-* 
fusion, the general complained to a field-officer of Eraser's 
raiment of the bad behaviour of his corps. ''Sir," he 
answered, in great warmth, **you did very wrong in forbid- 
ding the bagpipes to play this morning; nothing encourages 
Highlanders so much in the day of action, — ^nay, even now 
the pipes would be of use." " Let them blow, then, like the 
devil," replied the General, "if it will bring back the men." 
The bagpipes were ordered to play a &vourite martial air. 
The Highlanders, the moment they heard the music, re- 
turned and formed with alacrity, and fought like infuriated 
lions. 

The influence of music over animals is known to be very 
great Bumey says that an officer, being shut up in the 
Bastille, had his lute allowed him ; upon which, after a trial 
or two, the mice came issuing from their holes, and the 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA* 177 

spiders, suspending themselves from their threads, assembled 
round him to enjoy the melody.* 

Falret alludes particularly to the benefit which ofien accrues 
from music in peculiar disorders of the nervous system at- 
tended with a disposition to suicide. So exalted an idea 
had M. Appert of its effects on the mind, that he has ob- 
served, alluding to criminals, ^^that the man sefmble to the 
influence of harmony is not irretrievably hsL^ A young lady 
passionately fond of music manifested an inclination to kill 
herself; she was sent by her fitmily to an hospital, where she 
was carefully watched. The idea of suicide was not, however, 
removed until she was allowed the use of her fiivourite in- 
strument, the harp. The good effect was soon perceptible ; 
her melancholy gradually subsided, and with it the suicidal 
disposition. She expressed to her friends how grateful she 
felt that she was allowed to indulge in her fiivourite amuse- 
ment, and was conscious of the benefits which she had derived 
from it. 

The progress of epidemic suicide has been stayed by having 
recourse to measures which have powerfidly affected the 
imagination. 

The young women of Marseilles, at one. period, were seized 
with a propensity to commit suicide. In order to prevent 
the contagion from spreading, a law was passed to the effect 
that the body of every female who was guilty of self-murder 
should be publicly exposed after death. The beneficial result 
of this law became immediately apparent; the epidemic was 
stopped; the sense of shame prevailed over the recklessness 
of human life. 

In the French army, during the reign of Napoleon Buona- 
parte, a grenadier killed himself. This suicide was followed 
by another case, and it was feared that the disposition would 
assume an epidemic character. Buonaparte saw the necessity 
of prompt and decisive measures, and with a view of striking 

♦ History of Music. 

N 



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178 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA* 

terror in the minds of the soldiers, and putting a stop at once 
to the spread of what appeared to be a contagious malady, he 
issued the following "order of the day," dated St. Cloudy 
22 Floreal^ anX.:— 

"The grenadier Groblin has committed suicide, from a 
disappointment in love. He was, in other respects, a worthy 
man. This is the second event of the kind that has hap- 
pened in this corps within a month. The First Consul directs 
that it shall be notified in the order of the day of the guard, 
that a soldier ought to know how to overcome the grief and 
melancholy of his passions; that there is as much true 
courage in bearing mental affliction manfuUy as in remaining 
unmoved under the fire of a battery. To abandon oneself 
to grief without resisting, and to kill oneself in order to 
escape from it, is like abandoning the field of battle before 
being conquered. 

*^ Signed, " Napoleon, 

" Bessieres." 

The effect of this masterly appeal to the courage of the 
French soldiery was truly magical. The disposition was 
completely quelled, and no case of suicide occurred for a 
considerable time afterwards. The course which Napoleon 
adopted shewed his great knowledge of human nature, as well 
as the thorough insight he had obtained into the character of 
the people over whose minds he exercised so tremendous an 
influence. 

An account of the punishment inflicted on the women of 
Miletus, a city of Ionia, who were seized with an epidemic 
suicide, is transmitted to us in the writings of Plutarch. 
He says, " The Milesian virgins were at one time pos- 
sessed with an uncommon rage for suicide. All desire of life 
seemed suddenly to leave them, and they rushed on death 
(by the help of the halter) with an impetuous fury. The tears 
and entreaties of parents and friends were of no avail; and if 
they were prevented by force for awhile, they evaded all the 
attention and vigilance of their observers, and found means to 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 179 

perpetrate the horrid deed. Some ascribed this extraordinary 
species of desperation and frenzy to certain occult and mad- 
dening qualities of the air at that season, somehow or other 
peculiarly injurious to the female frame and texture, both of 
body and mind, (since the men were not visibly affected by it ;) 
while the superstitious considered it as a calamity sent fix)m 
the gods, and therefore beyond the power of human remedy. 
But whatever was the cause, the effect was visible and im- 
portant, and could not be suffered to rage long without mani- 
fest injury to the state. While speculative men, therefore, 
were attempting to account for the phenomena, the active 
magistrate was endeavouring to arrest the progress of the 
contagion, for which purpose the following decree was is- 
sued ; — ** That the body of every young woman who hanged 
herself should be dragged naked through the streets by the 
same rope with which she committed the deed." This wise 
edict had in a short time the desired effect Plutarch adds — 
^* The fear of shame and ignominy is an argument of a good 
and virtuous mind; and they who regarded not pain and 
death, which are usually esteemed the most dreadful of evils, 
could not, however, endure the thoughts of having their dead 
bodies exposed to indignity and shame." 

In the Magdalen Asylum, at Edinburgh, a girl was seized 
with typhus fever, at the time that it was raging in the city, and 
though she was instantly removed, as well as all her bed-clothes 
&c., two more were seized next day, and an alarm or panic 
was soon spread over the whole house. Next day, no fewer 
than sixteen were in the sick-room, and in the course of four 
days, out of a community of less than fifty individuals, twenty- 
two were apparently labouring under decided fever. It now 
struck Dr. Hamilton that there was mad delusion in all this, 
and that the disease arose as much from panic and irritation 
as from any other causes. Acting on this belief, he went to 
the sick-room, and told the girls that such a rapid spread of the 
disease was entirely unprecedented ; that they were under the 
delusion of yielding to their fears, and of imitating others who 

n2 



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180 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

were now undergoing all the tortures of bleeding, blistering, 
and purging, in Queensbury Hospital He assured them that 
the fumigation and other precautions must have destroyed the 
contagion, and that if they would only keep a good heart and 
dismiss their fears, he would pledge himself the fever would 
soon disappear. The effect of the Doctor's speech was magical. 
All apprehension was instantly banished from the mind, the 
cheering influence of hope was inspired, moral courage was 
developed, and the progress of the pestilence stopped. Not 
one case of fever occurred afterwards, and those who had the 
fever at the time perfectly recovered.* 

It is only on the same principle that we can account for the 
success which Dr. A. T. Thompson met with in the treatment 
of the following case of hooping-cough, which had been kept 
up by habit The patient, a young boy, was threatened with 
the application of a large blister ; although it was not applied, 
but merely placed within his view, yet the dread of it com- 
pletely removed the cough. Boerrhave cured epilepsy in a 
whole school, by marching into it at the moment of the ex- 
pected attack with a red-hot poker, which he threatened to 
thrust down the throats of those who should have a fit 

A remarkable instance of epidemic suicide occurred as far 
back as the reign of Tarquinius Prisons, which as it required, 
so it received, an effectual check by the spirited introduction 
of an extraordinary mode of punishment After this king 
had employed the Roman people in successftil wars abroad, he 
fiUed up their leisure at home in works of less apparent 
honour, though of greater utiUty. These were to cut drains 
and common sewers of immense size and durability. When 
the soldiers disdained these servile offices, and saw no end to 
their labours, many of them committed suicide by throwing 
themselves off the Capitoline Hill. Others followed their 
example, until the contagion spread through the whole of the 
men. The king, in order to strike terror into the minds of 

* Edinburgh Medical Trans. 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICmAL MANIA. 181 

those who might contemplate self-destruction, issued an order 
commanding the bodies of those who should commit suicide 
to be nailed on crosses, and then exposed as spectacles to the 
rest of the citizens, and left a prey to the fowls of the air. 
The feeling of shame and horror had the effect of checking 
the disposition to sacrifice life, and thus the king's purpose 
was effected. 

Whether any measures of a similar character cpuld be 
adopted in cases where the disposition to suicide has a ten-^ 
dency to assume an epidemic form is a matter of considerable 
doubt 

Experience has established the effect of some simple remedies 
in preventing the return of paroxysms of melancholia with a 
propensity to suicide. But it has likewise, and not unfire- 
quently, evinced their insufficiency, and at the same time the 
influence of a strong and deeply impressed emotion in pro- 
ducing a solid and durable change. A man who worked at 
a sedentary trade consulted Pinel, about the end of October, 
1783, for dyspepsia and great depression of spirits. He knew 
of no cause to which he could ascribe his indisposition. His 
unhappiness at length increased to such a pitch that he felt 
an invincible propensity to throw himself into the Seine. 
Unequivocal symptoms of a disordered stomach induced Pinel 
to prescribe some opening medicines, and for some days occa- 
sional draughts of whey. His bowels were effectually opened, 
and he suffered but little from his propensity to self-destruc- 
tion during the remainder of. the winter. Fine weather 
appeared to restore him completely, and his cure was con- 
sidered as perfect. Towards the decline of autiunn,. however, 
his melancholia returned. Nature assumed to him a dark and 
dismal aspect, and his propensity to throw himself into the 
Seine returned with redoubled force. The only circumstance 
that in any degree restrained the horrid impulse was, the idea 
of leaving unprotected a wife and child, whom he tenderly 
loved. This struggle between the feelings of nature and his 
delirious firenzy was not permitted to continue long ; for the 



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182 MORAI. TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL BfANlA. 

moBt unequivocal proofii soon after appeared of his having 
executed his &tal project 

A literary gentleman, devoted to the pleasures of the 
table, and who had lately recovered from a fever, experienced 
in the autumnal season all the horrors of the propensity to 
suicide. He weighed with shocking calmness the choice 
of various methods to accomplish the deed of death. A visit 
which he paid to London appears to have developed, with a 
new degree of energy, his profound melancholy, and his im- 
movable resolution to abridge his term of life. He chose an 
advanced hour of the night, and went towards one of the 
bridges of that capital for the purpose of precipitating himself 
into the Thames ; but at the moment of his arrival at the 
destined spot, he was attacked by some robbers. Though he 
had little or no money about him, he felt extremely indignant 
at this treatment, and used every effort to make his escape, 
which, however, he did not accomplish before he had been 
exceedingly terrified. Left by his assailants, he returned to 
his lodgings, having forgot the original object of his sally. 
This rencontre seems to have caused a thorough revolution 
in the state of his mind. His cure was complete. 

A watchmaker was for a long time harassed by the pro- 
pensity to suicide. He once so far gave way to the horrid 
impulse, that he withdrew to his house in the country, where 
he expected to meet no obstacle to the execution of his 
project Here he took a pistol, and retired to an adjoin- 
ing wood, with the full intent of perpetrating the fatal deed ; 
but missing his aim, the contents of the piece entered his 
cheek. Violent haemorrhage ensued. He was discovered, 
and conveyed to his own house. During the healing of the 
wound, which was long protracted, an important change took 
place in the state of his mind. Whether 6rom the agitation 
produced by the above tragic attempt, from the enormous loss 
of blood which it occasioned, or frt)m any other cause, he 
never afterwards shewed the least inclination to put an end to 
his existence. This case, though by no means an example 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 183 

for imitation, is well calculated to shew that sudden terror, or 
any other lively or deep impression, may divert, and even 
destroy, the fktal propensity to suicide. 

A few years ago, an officer went into Hyde Park with an 
intention of shooting himself He applied a pistol to his 
forehead ; the priming flashed, but no discharge foDowed. A 
man of poor appearance, whom the officer had not observed, 
or perhaps thought unworthy of his notice, instantly ran up, and 
wrested the pistol from his hands. The other drew his sword, 
and was about to stab his deliverer, who, with much spirit, 
replied, ** Stab me. Sir, if you think proper; I fear death as 
little as you, but I have more courage. More than twenty 
years I have Uved in affliction and penury, and I yet trust in 
God for comfort and support" The officer was struck with 
these spirited words, continued speechless and motionless for 
a short time, and then, bursting into tears, gave his purse to 
the honest man. He then inquired into his story, and became 
his private friend and benefactor ; but he made the poor man 
swear that he would never make inquiries concerning himself, 
or seem to know him, if chance should ever bring them in 
sight of each other. 

A female patient, who had often threatened to destroy her- 
self, one day assured M. Esquirol that she was about to do it 
" Very weU," he answered ; " it is nothing to me ; and your 
husband will be delivered of a great torment" She instantly 
ceased the preparations she was making to accomplish the act, 
and never spoke of committing it again. 

How easily lunatics may be diverted from their purpose by 
presence of mind, an intimacy with their character, and the 
tact to employ the destructive feeling by which they are 
actuated as the means of protection, is well exemplified in an 
anecdote related by Dr. Fox. He had accompanied a suicidal 
and fruious maniac, who was at the time calm, to the upper 
story of his asylum to enjoy the prospect beyond the walls. 
In returning, the spiral staircase struck the eye of the patient; 
the opportunity roused the half-slumbering propensity, and a 



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184 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICmAL MANIA. 

fit of firenzy ensued. His eyes glared, his teeth ground against 
each other ; he panted like a bloodhound for his prey, and 
seizing the Doctor by the collar, howled into his ears, ** You 
jump down, and I will jump after you." The Doctor for. the 
moment was petrified with horror; he was alone with a 
powerfiil man, firenzied by insanity ; to escape was out of the 
question ; to attempt to overcome him by force was still more 
fiitile : in a moment he hit upon a stratagem. Turning to the 
infuriated madman, he exclaimed, with a look of coolness and 
collectedness, " Bah I my child could jump firom this place ; it 
requires no nouse to do that; the thing is to jump up — that is 
the difficulty." The madman listened with attention to what 
the Doctor said, and then observed, " But you cannot do so, 
can you ?" The Doctor replied, he could, and they both hur- 
ried down to put the boast to the proof, and the sanguinary 
threat was foi^tten before they reached the lobby. 

Physicians not practically acquainted with the treatment of 
insanity are too much inclined to believe that it is firdtless 
to attempt to reason a madman out of his morbid delusion, 
and that to have recourse to a trick in order to dispel the 
mental illusion is a species of practice unbecoming the dignity 
of a professional gentleman. Numerous cases are recorded in 
which patients have been cured of monomania by a well- 
contrived artifice; and in many cases of suicidal insanity, 
when other treatment fidls, the medical man may have re- 
course to this mode of cure without any danger of sinking 
himself in public or professional estimation. The following 
cases are illustrations of the foregoing remark : — 

A celebrated watchmaker, at Paris, was infatuated with the 
chimera of perpetual motion, and to effect this discovery he 
set to work with indefatigable ardour. From unremitting 
attention to the object of his enthusiasm coinciding with the 
influence of revolutionary disturbances, his imagination was 
greatly heated, his sleep was interrupted, and, at length, a 
complete derangement of the understanding took place. His 
case was marked by a most whimsical illusion of the imagin- 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL 'MANIA. 185 

ation. He fancied that he had lost his head on the scaffold i 
that it had been thrown promiscuously among the heads of 
many other victims ; that the judges^ having repented of their 
cruel sentence, had ordered them to be restored to their owners, 
and placed upon their respective shoulders; but that, in 
consequence of an unfortunate mistake, the gentleman who 
had the management of the business had placed upon his 
shoulders the head of one of his unhappy companions. 
The idea of this whimsical exchange occupied his thoughts 
night and day, on account of which his relations sent 
him to the Hotel Dieu; and from thence he was trans- 
ferred to the Asylum de Bicetre. Nothing could equal the 
extravagant overflowings of his heated brain. He sung, 
cried, or danced incessantly ; and as there appeared no pro- 
pensity in him to commit acts of violence or disturbance, he 
was allowed to go about the hospital without control, in order 
to expend, by evaporation, the effervescent excess of his 
spirits. ** Look at these teeth," he constantly cried ; " mine 
were exceedingly handsome ; these are rotten and decayed. 
My mouth was sound and healthy ; this is foul and diseased. 
What a difference between this hair and that of my own 
head !" To this state of delirious gaiety, however, succeeded 
that of furious madness. He broke to pieces, or otherwise 
destroyed, whatever was within the reach or power of his mis- 
chievous propensity. Close confinement became indispens- 
able. Towards the approach of winter, his violence abated ; 
and, although he continued to be extravagant in his ideas, he 
was never afterwards dangerous. He was therefore permitted, 
whenever he felt disposed, to go to the inner court. The 
idea of perpetual motion frequently recurred to him in the 
midst of his wanderings; and he chalked on all the walls 
and doors as he passed the various designs by which his 
wondrous piece of mechanism was to be constructed. The 
method best calculated to cure so whimsical an illusion ap- 
peared to be that of encouraging his prosecution of it to 
satiety. His friends were accordingly requested to send him 



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186 MORAlT TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

his toob, with materials to work upon, and other requisites, 
such as plates of copper and steel, watch-wheels, &c. The 
governor permitted him to fix up a work-bench in his apart- 
ment His zeal was now redoubled; his whole attention was 
rivetted upon his fiivourite pursuit He forgot his meals. 
After about a month's labour, which he sustained with a con- 
stancy that deserved better success, our artist began to think 
that he had followed a fake route. He broke into a thousand 
fragments the piece of machinery which he had fabricated at 
so much expense of time, thought, and labour ; entered on 
the construction of another upon a new plan, and laboured 
with equal pertinacity for an additional fortnight The various 
parts being completed, he brought them t(^ether, and £uicied 
that he saw a perfect harmony amongst them. The whole 
was now finally adjusted ; his anxiety was indescribable ; mo- 
tion succeeded ; it continued for some time, and he supposed 
it capable of continuing for ever. He was elevated to the 
highest pitch of enjoyment and triumph, and ran as quick as 
lightning into the interior of the hospital, crying out, like an- 
other Archimedes, ^' At length I have solved this famous 
problem, which has puzzled so many men celebrated for their 
wisdom and talents." But, grievous to say, he was discon- 
certed in the midst of his triumph. The wheels stopped ; the 
perpetual motion ceased I His intoxication of joy was suc- 
ceeded by disappointment and confiision. But to avoid a 
humiliating and mortifying confession, he declared that he 
could easily remove the impediment ; but tired of that kind 
of employment, he was determined for the future to devote 
his whole time and attention to his business. There still re- 
mained another maniacal . impression to be counteracted, — 
that of the imaginary exchange of his head, which unceas- 
ingly recurred to him. A keen and an unanswerable stroke 
of pleasantry seemed best adapted to correct this fimtastic 
whim. Another convalescent, of a gay and facetious humour, 
instructed in the part he should play in this comedy, adroitly 
turned the conversation to the subject of the famous miracle 



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MORAL TREATMENT OP SUICIDAL MANIA. 187 

of Saint Denis. Our mechanician strongly maintained the 
possibility of the fact, and sought to confirm it by an appli- 
cation of it to his own case. The other set up a loud laugh, 
and replied, with a tone of the keenest ridicule, " Madman 
as thou art, how could Saint Denis kiss his own head ? Was it 
with his heels ?" This equally unexpected and unanswerable 
retort forcibly struck the maniac. He retired confosed, 
amidst the peals of laughter which were provoked at his ex- 
pense, and never afterwards mentioned the exchange of his 
head. Close attention to his trade for some months com- 
pleted the restoration of his intellect He was sent to his 
family in perfect health, and has now for more than five 
years pursued his business without a return of his complaint 

Mr. Cox recollects a singular instance ofa deranged idea in 
a maniac being corrected by a very simple stratagem. The 
patient asserted that he was the Holy Ghost ; a gentleman 
present immediately exclaimed, " You the Holy Ghost ! 
What proof have you to produce ?" " I know that I am," was 
his answer. The gentleman said, ** How is this possible ? 
There is but one Holy Ghost, is there ? How then can you 
be the Holy Ghost, and I be so too?" He appeared sur- 
prised and puzzled, and, after a short pause, said, ** But are 
you the Holy Ghost ?" When the other observed, " Did you 
not know that I was ?" his answer was, " I did not know it 
before. Why, then, I cannot be the Holy Ghost" 

A Portuguese nobleman became melancholy, and fancied 
that God would never forgive his sins. Various means were 
tried to subdue this morbid impression, but in vain, until the 
following artifice was adopted, which proved successfiil in 
restoring the lunatic to reason. During midnight, a person 
dressed as an angel was made to enter his bed-room, having a 
drawn sword in its right hand, and a lighted torch in the 
other. The imaginary angelic being addressed the mono- 
maniac by name, who, rising fi*om his bed, spoke to the supposed 
angel, beseeching it to tell him whether his sins would ever 
be forgiven ; upon which the angel replied, " Be comforted. 



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188 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

your sins are forgiven.*' The poor man's delight knew no 
bounds. He rose fix)in his bed, summoned every one in the 
house to his presence, and explained to them all that had 
passed. From that moment the man rapidly recovered in 
bodily heiedth, and his delusion has completely vanished. 

A man fancied he was dead, refused to eat, and impor- 
tuned his parents to bury him. By the advice of his jdiysi- 
cian, he was wrapped in a winding-sheet, laid upon a bier, 
and in this way he was carried on the shoulders of four men 
to the churchyard. On their way, two or three pleasant 
fellows (appointed for that purpose) meeting the hearse, 
demanded in a commanding tone of voice to know whose body 
they had in the coffin. They replied it was a young man's, 
and mentioned his name. ** Surely," said one of them, " the 
world is well rid of him ; for he was a man who led a bad and 
vicious life, and his friends have good reasons to rejoice that 
he has thus ended his days, otherwise he would have died an 
ignominious death on the scaffold." The young man over- 
heard this observation, at which he felt extremely indignant; 
but feeling that it was not consistent with propriety or the 
laws of nature for a dead man on his way to his last home to 
exhibit any indications of passion, he satisfied himself by 
coolly replying, ** That they were wicked men to do him 
that wrong, and that if he had been alive he would teach them 
to speak better of the dead." " It is well," said one of the 
men in reply, " that you are no more ; both for yourself and 
family. You were a mean, pitiful scoundrel, guilty of every 
abomination, and the world is rejoiced that you no longer 
live." This was too much for the patience of the dead man to 
endure, and feeling that he could no longer suffer such unjust 
aspersions to be cast on his character, he leaped from the 
coffin, prociured the first stick he could lay hands on, and com- 
menced belabouring his vile accusers. As it may be supposed, 
they gave him plenty to do, and by the time he had gratified 
his indignation, and well chastised his calumniators, he had 
become completely exhausted. In this state he was taken 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 189 

home, and in a few days he was completely cured of the 
morbid idea which had taken possession of his imagin- 
ation. 

Menecrates, as we leam from ^lian,* become so mad, as 
seriously to believe himself the son of Jupiter, and to request 
of Philip of Macedon that he might be treated as a god. 
But it is not always that the man thus deranged falls into 
such good hands as those of the Macedonian monarch ; for 
Philip humorously determining to make the madman's dis- 
ease work its own cure, gave orders immediately that his 
request should be complied with, and invited him to a grand 
entertainment, at which was a separate table for the new divi- 
nity, served with the most costly perfumes and incense, but 
with nothing else. Menecrates was at first highly delighted, 
and received the worship that was paid to him with the 
greatest complacency ; but growing hungry by degrees over 
the empty viands that were offered him, while every other 
guest was indulged with substantial dainties, he at length 
keenly felt himself to be a man, and stole away from the court 
in his right senses. 

Many cases of suicidal insanity have been cured by remov- 
ing the persons so unhappily afflicted from their own homes, 
friends, and relations. In these cases the physician has no 
little difficulty in persuading the friends of the invalid that a 
separation from old associations is absolutely indispensable ; 
that without it, a return to sanity cannot be reasonably ex- 
pected. When Dr. Willis undertook the cure of George III., 
he in^isted^ in the first instance, in dismissing all the old 
servants, changing the furniture, and removing everything 
from the king's sight that might tend to awaken in his mind 
ideas of the past. The success that attended his treatment is 
said mainly to have depended on this circumstance. 

Mr. y forty-seven years old, of a neuro-sanguineous 

temperament, was happy in his domestic circle, and his busi- 

♦ Lib. xii. cap. 51. 



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190 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MAKIA. 

ness had prospered until the year, 1830, from which period he 
was much harassed in the management of his affairs. In De- 
cember, 1831, after a very trifling loss, he grew sorrowful and 
melancholy ; his &ce was flushed, his eyes became blood-shot, 
his breathing was difficult, and he shed tears, incessantly re- 
peating that he was lost On the next and following days, he 
made several attempts to commit suicide, so that they were 
obliged to cover his apartment with wadding. He wished to 
strangle himself, tried to swallow his tongue, filled his mouth 
with his fist in hopes of suffocating himself and then refused 
all nourishment At the expiration of six days, the patient was 
brought to Paris, and entrusted to Esquirol's care. From the 
moment of his arrival all desire to commit suicide vanished, 
and the patient appeared restored to reason. ^^ The impres- 
sion that I received," said he, ** on finding myself transported 
to a strange house cured me." In fact, sleep, appetite, and a 
return of connected, and sometimes lively conversation, in- 
duced the belief that a cure was effected. Three weeks seemed 
enough for convalescence, when his wife and son came to fetch 
him. They passed two days at Paris to finish some business 
there, and then returned to the country. Scarcely had he 
arrived at his home when he felt himself impelled by the same 
desires, in consequence of which, he returned to Paris, trans- 
acted some business whilst he remained there, and appeared 
perfectly welL On returning to his home again, he made 
fi*esh attempts to commit suicide, struck his son, and those 
who waited upon him, and endangered the life of his wife. 
Neither the grief of his family, the watch placed over him, 
nor the pretended authority of those about him, could over- 
come these feelings. The patient passed several days without 
food ; he tore up his linen to make a cord to hang himself, 
tied it round his neck, and got upon his bed in order to 
throw himself upon the floor; and at last, deceiving the 
watchfulness of his relations, escaped to throw himself into the 
river. He was immediately put into a carriage, and accom- 
panied by his wife ; but, notwithstanding the strait-waistcoat. 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 191 

he left no means untried to kill himself On arriving at Paris, 
and being again confined, he became perfectly reasonable, and 
made no attempt to destroy himself during the six weeks that 
his second confinement lasted There was reason to believe 
his cure complete. If he was asked why he did not overcome 
his terrible impressions at his own house as he did at Paris, 
he answered in an evasive manner, affirming that this time 
the trial had been long enough, that he was cured, and that 
he insisted upon returning home. ** Deprived of my wife 
and son,'' said he, ^^ I am the most unhappy of men, and I 
cannot live." ** But if you are so unhappy here," said Esqui- 
rol to him one day, " why do you not try to destroy yourself, 
as it is very easy to do so ?" '* I know not," he replied ; ** but 
I am cured, and I wish to live." This patient enjoyed the 
greatest liberty, and although no apparent precaution was 
taken to prevent his destroying himself, he never made the 
least attempt He afterwards ceased to talk unreasonably; 
but Esquirol was never able to obtain an avowal of the motives 
which induced him to commit suicide at his own house, 
whilst he thought no more of it as soon as he came amongst 
strangers. On returning to his home for the fourth time, 
although he was able to transact important business, the same 
phenomena returned with equal violence. 

M. , twenty-seven years old, after experiencing 

some reverses of fortune, became maniacal, with a tendency 
to commit suicide. The elevated situation of the room which 
he inhabited, the position of the staircase, the reiterated 
visits of his fiiends, ** who came to contemplate his misfor- 
tunes," and the despair of his wife, were so many circum- 
stances which induced him to terminate his existence ; and 
although he avowed that he had no motive for so doing, and 
that he was ashamed, and considered himself criminal for 
having attempted it, he left no means untried for more than a 
month to effect that end. When he was taken away from 
his home, and lodged in a ground-floor which led into a 
garden, the idea no longer harassed him. " It would be of no 



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192 MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

use," he said ; " I could never kill myself here ; every pre- 
caution is taken to prevent me." 

A baker's wife, of a lymphatic temperament, experienced a 
violent fit of jealousy, which caused her much distress, and in- 
duced her to watch her husband's steps, who vented his discon- 
tent in threats and reproaches. At last, this unhappy woman, 
being unable to bear the feeling any longer, threw herself out 
of the window. Her husband ran to pick her up, and be- 
stowed marks of the most attentive kindness upon her. ^^ It is 
useless," she said ; ** you have a wife no longer." She refused 
every kind of nourishment, and neither the solicitations, 
tears, prayers of her relations, and those of her husband, 
who never quitted her room, were able to overcome her reso- 
lution. After seven days of total abstinence, Esquirol was 
called in. They hid from him the cause of the disease, but he 
observed that every time her husband approached the bed, her 
face became convulsed. The patient was told that she was 
about to be sent into the country, but that it was necessary 
for her to take a little nourishment in order to support the 
journey. A little broth which was oflTered her was accepted ; 
but notwithstanding her attempts, she could only swallow a 
few drops. She tried again the following morning, but she 
expired in the course of the day. *^ Had this woman," says 
Esquirol, " been removed from her home immediately after 
the accident, there is little doubt but she would have been 
restored. How could she desire to live, her distress being 
continually aggravated by the presence of her husband ?" 

The chief means of controlling the passions, and of keeping 
them within just bounds, is to form a proper estimate of the 
things of this life, of the relation of our present to a fiiture 
state of existence, and of the influence which our actions in 
this world will have upon our happiness hereafter. Such a 
right estimate every rational man will labour to attain. He 
will endeavour, by correcting error, and acquiring such habits 
as are consistent with just sentiments, to withdraw the nourish- 
ment from the very root of passion, rather than be for ever 



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MORAL TREATMENT OF SITICIDAL MANIA. 193 

fruitlessly occupied in merely pruning the luxuriance of some 
of its branches. 

It may be useful to impress strongly upon the minds of 
those who have not sufficient command over their feelings, the 
persuasion that the indulgence of any passion to excess, and 
especially of the selfish and malevolent ones, is likely to be in- 
jurious to health, will certainly be destructive of serenity and 
comfort ; and of course, by diminishing happiness, will fiiis- 
trate its own aim and intention, and may, by repetition, ac- 
quire accumulated force and &ciEty of excitement, become 
at length imconquerable and habitual, and according to its 
nature, violence, and frequency, will, in a greater or less de- 
gree, be subversive of happiness, and leave them more or less 
open to the attacks of insanity. 

Such persons will therefore see it highly expedient, while 
under the influence of these impressions, to do all in their 
power to avoid them ; to compare their urgent and apparent 
importance when they occur, with the probable diminution 
of the comfort and health of body and mind which they 
might induce ; and to lay it down as a rule never to indulge 
any passion whatever, till, independently of moral considera- 
tions, and the notions of duty and obligation, they have deli- 
berately reflected, whether the importance of the cause will 
be a sufficient counterbalance to the certain pain inflicted 
and the injury which may be thence derived to their health of 
body and ease and soundness of mind. A habit of such 
deliberation once acquired, — ^and it may be acquired by dili- 
gence and resolution, — ^wiU entirely put an end to exorbitant 
excitement, since by checking the very beginnings of emotion, 
its growth and progress will be altogether prevented. 

And as every one has some weak point on which he is more 
open to a successful attack, some constitutional or habitual 
feeling, the approaches of which he cannot easily withstand, all 
persons who are convinced of the expediency and necessity of 
subduing their passions, if they would consult their own ease, 
will be aware of the importance of keeping a diligent watch. 



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194 MORAL TBSATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA. 

and placing a strong guard, upon the one that most easily 
and successfully besets them. 

And whoever would secure a reasonable portion of j^^sent 
happiness will be sensible of the necessi^ of learning the art 
of contentment, which, difficult as it may seem to those who 
have not used themselves to check the wanderings of imagina- 
tion, and to keep their desires within prudent bounds, not 
only appears indispensable, but easy, to the man who feels a 
lively and practical conviction of its wonderfiil tendency to 
multiply the sum of actual enjoyment 

With the same view of promoting and securing their ovnot 
present felicity, such persons wiU see the propriety of acquiring 
habits of good nature, and of cultivating the emotions of be- 
nevolence. And as virtue seldom fails to bring her own 
dowry, contentedness and benevolence vnll infallibly introduce 
habits of cheerfulness, which, while they improve our happi- 
ness, act as powerful preservatives against disease, and as 
determined enemies of insanity. 



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195 



CHAPTER X. 
PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 



On the dependence of irritability of temper on physical disease — Voltaire and 
an Englishman agree to commit saicide — ^The reasons that induced Vol- 
taire to change his mind — ^The ferocity of Robespierre accounted for — 
The state of his body after death— The petulance of Pope dependent od 
physical causes — Suicide from cerebral congestion, treatment of— Ad- 
vantages of bloodletting, with cases — Damien insane — Cold applied to the 
head, of benefit — Good effects of puigation — Suicide caused by a tape- 
worm — Early indications of the disposition to suicide — ^The suicidal eye — 
Of the importance of carefully watching persons disposed to suicide^ 
Cunning of such patients — Numerous illustrations — ^The fondness for a 
particular mode of death — Dr. Burrows' extraordinary case — Dr. Conolly 
on the treatment of suicide — Cases shewing the advantage of confinement. 

Medical men have not considered with that degree of atten- 
tion commensurate with its importance the relationship be- 
tween physical derangement and those apparently trifling 
mental ailments which so often, if not subdued, lead to the 
commission of suicide. The origin of self-destruction is more 
frequently dependent upon derangement of the prim<B vi<B 
than is generally imagined. Every one must, in his own 
person, be aware of the influence of indigestion, and what is 
termed bilious disorder, upon the spirits. An inactive condi- 
tion of the bowels is a common cause of mental disquietude. 
Voltaire, who was a man of great observation, appears to have 
paid considerable attention to this connexion. He advises a 
person who intends to ask a favour of a prime minister, or a 
minister's secretary, or a secretary's mistress, to be careful to 

o2 



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196 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF 

approach them after they have had a comfortable evacuation 
from the bowels. Dryden mvariably dosed himself before 
sitting down to compose* He says — ** If you wish to have 
fidry flights of fimcy^ you must pui^ the belly." Cameades^ 
the celebrated disputant of antiqui^, was in the habit of 
taking white helebore, (a pui^tive^) preparatory to his refiiting 
the dogmas of the Stoics. Lord Byron says, in one of his let- 
ters, ^^ I am suffering from what my physician terms * gastric 
irritation,' and my spirits are sadly depressed. I have taken 
a brisk cathartic, and to-morrow ^Richard will be himself 
again.' " The following anecdote is recorded of Voltaire : — 
'^An English gentleman of fortune had been sitting many hours 
with this great wit and censurer of human character. Their 
discourse related chiefly to the depravity of human nature, 
tyranny and oppression of kings, poverty, wretchedness, and 
misfortune, the pain of disease, particularly the gravel, gout, 
and stone. They worked themselves up to such a pitch of 
imaginary evils that they proposed next morning to commit 
suicide together. The Englishman, firm to his resolution, 
rose, and expected Voltaire to perform his promise, to whom 
the genius replied, ^^Ah! monsieur , pardxmnez moi^ fed bien 
dormiy mon lavement a bien operiy et le soleil est taut-^-fait clair 
aujourdChuL^ 

We knew a gentleman whose temper was not controllable if 
he allowed himself to pass a day without his accustomed eva- 
cuation from the bowels. Pinel records the particulars of the 
case of a man who had fits of mental derangement whenever 
the action of the bowels became irregular. 

The blood-thirsty miscreant Robespierre is said to have 
been of a ^* costive habit, and to have been much subjected to de- 
rangement of the Uver,"* After death, it is said that "his 
bowels were found one adherent mass." It is indeed interest- 
ing to consider, both morally and medically, how fiir these 
morbid ailments influenced this monster in the bloody career 
in which he was engaged. 

There can be no question but that the morbid irritability 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. lf>7 

which many of our men of genius have manifested was but 
the effect of a derangement of the physical frame acting upon 
a mind naturally sensitive to such impressions. 

Much of the petulance, personality, and malignity of Pope 
was dependent upon causes over which he had no control — 
viz., disease of the stomach and liver, producing hypochon- 
driasis. It has been well observed by Madden, " Who knows 
under what paroxysms of mental irritation caused by that dis- 
ease (indigestion), which more than any other domineers over 
the feelings of the sufferer, he might have written those bitter 
sarcasiQS which he levelled against his literary opponents? 
Who knows in what moment of bodily pain his irascibility 
might have taken the form of unjustifiable satire, or his 
morbid sensibility assumed the sickly shape of petulance and 
peevishness ? Who knows how the strength of the strong 
mind might have been cast down by his sufferings, when ^ he 
descended to the artifice' of imposing on a bookseller, and 
of * writing those letters for effect which he published by 
subterfuge?' Who that has observed how the vacillating 
conduct of the dyspeptic invalid imitates the vagaries of this 
proteiform malady can wonder at his capriciousness, or be 
surprised at the anomaly of bitterness on the tongue, and be- 
nevolence in the heart, of the same individual?"* 

That Pope was a severe sufferer from bodily disease will 
appear evident from the following account given by Dr. 
Johnson of the poet. He says, " Pope's constitution, which 
was originally feeble, became so debilitated that he stood in 
perpetual need of female attendance ; and so great was his 
sensibility of cold that he wore a fiir doublet under a shirt of 
very coarse warm linen. When he rose, he invested himself 
in a bodice made of stiff canvass, being scarcely able to hold 
himself erect till it was laced ; and he then put on a flannel 
waistcoat. His legs were so slender that he enlarged their 

* When Pope was on his death-bed, Bolingbroke observed to the weeping 
attendants, ** I have known Pope these thirty years ; he was the kindest- 
hearted man in the world." 



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198 PHYSICAL TREATBIENT OF 

bulk with three pairs of stockings^ which were drawn off and 
on by the maid, for he was not able to dress or undress him- 
self and he neither went to bed nor rose without help." 

His frequent attacks of indigestion made him at times a 
perfect picture of misery and wretchedness. It clothed every- 
thing with a gloomy aspect, made him quarrel with his friends 
and domestics, and he has been known to say that he sighed 
for death as a reprieve from mental and bodily agony. Sir 
Samuel Garth was frequently consulted when he had these 
attacks ; and it was only by exacting a strict attention to diet 
and exhibiting medicine that he was enabled to restore the 
mind of the poet to a healthy tone. 

This physical ailment, as it often does when long conti- 
nued, ultimately affected the cerebral functions. At times he 
had symptoms of pressure on the brain, or at least of an un- 
equal and imperfect distribution of blood to that organ. Spence 
says, he frequently complained of seeing everything in the 
room as through a curtain, and on other occasions, of seeing 
&lse colours on certain objects. At another period, on a sick- 
bed, he asked Dodsley what arm it was that had the appear- 
ance of coming out from the walL 

When the disposition to suicide is present, the physician 
should carefrdly ascertain whether the patient is not labouring 
under cerebral congestion, or a determination of blood to the 
head. The loss of a small quantity of blood has frequently 
been known to remove the propensity to self-destruction. A 
case is referred to by Schlegel of a woman who was liable to 
periodical fits of suicidal mania whenever she allowed a re- 
dundancy of blood to accumulate in the system. On two 
occasions she attempted suicide. On the first indications of a 
return of her delirium, she was generally bled, and relief was 
instantaneously afforded. 

A gentleman who had received, during the peninsular cam- 
paign, a sabre cut in the head, felt for some years, whenever 
he was exposed to great mental excitement, or allowed him- 
self to over-indulge in the use of spirits, a kind of suicidal 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 199 

delirium. Twice he was detected in the act of attempting to 
commit suicide^ and was fortunately prevented from doing so. 
The local abstraction of blood from the neighbourhood of the 
head was the only remedy which appeared to subdue the dis- 
position. 

The cases which are related in another chapter of indivi- 
duals who were insane at the moment when the act of self- 
destruction was attempted, but who recovered the use of their 
reasoning after having inflicted a wound attended with loss of 
blood, fully testify the importance of general and local deple- 
tion in certain cases of cerebral disease attended by this un- 
fortunate propensity. 

A blow on the head has been known to develope this feel- 
ing. The aflection of the sentient organ may remain latent 
for many years, and then suddenly manifest itself A man 
had received, when young, a kick from a horse, which pro- 
duced at the time no very urgent symptoms. Six years after 
the accident, he, without giving any indications of previous 
derangement of mind, cut his throat Upon examining the 
brain, it was found extensively diseased. . ^ 

A man, feeling the suicidal disposition, bled himself from 
the arm, and recovered. 

It will not be proper in all cases to abstract blood ; for the 
destructive propensity has been known to exiat where there 
has been a deficiency of blood in the brain. The practitioner 
should examine the condition of the patient thoroughly before 
he recommends active depletion. Sixty per cent of the cases 
of suicide will, however, be found with cerebral disease either 
of a primary or secondary nature ; and to that organ the me- 
dical man's attention should be particularly directed. 
. The following case happily illustrates the benefits which 
are sometimes derived fix)m the local abstraction of blood in 
certain cases of temporary insanity, accompanied with a dis* 
position to commit suicide. " A gentleman," says Dr. Bur- 
rows, " of a very irascible and impetuous disposition, with 
whom I was intimate, experienced in a public meeting a re- 



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200 PHYSICAL TB&ATMENT OF 

buke which exceedingly mortified him, and made so deep an 
impression upon his mind, that he was quite miserable. At 
nighty instead of going to bed, he roamed abroad ; and at 
length, early in the morning, without knowing whither he 
went, he found himself near a sheet of water. The view of 
it at once determined him to drown himseli^ and he accord- 
ingly plunged in. The action was perceived, and he was 
rescued firom the water, insensible, and immediately con- 
veyed to a place where means of resuscitation were adopted. 
As his address was found in his pocket, a communication was 
directly made to his fiunily, and Dr. Burrows was called in to 
see the patient He found him in a state of insensibility. 
As soon as consciousness returned, he was dressed, put into 
a coach, and Dr. B. accompanied him to his residence. As 
yet, he bad not spoken, neither did he appear to observe any- 
thing. The motion of the carriage on the stones seemed to 
rouse him, and he looked about. He took no notice of those 
who were in the carriage with him. He soon became vio- 
lent ; his eyes were wild, and rolled in their sockets ; his face 
became flushed ; the vessels of the forehead were excessively 
distended, and all the symptoms of genuine delirium came on.* 
Dr. Burrows ascribed the symptoms to a violent reaction in 
the vascular system firom the state of coUapse it had sustained, 
and ordered the oppressed vessels of the head to be relieved 
by the application of cupping glasses, and the abstraction of 
sixteen ounces of blood; the head to be kept cool, and 
enemata to be administered until the bowels were well 
cleansed out After these operations, he soon became pas- 
sive and disposed to sleep. He slept six hours, and awoke 
tolerably composed, but not quite coherent He took light 
nourishment, and at night awoke perfectly collected, but ex- 
ceedingly low. The next day he was well, but languid. An 
explanation was given him, which removed the impression 

* Prior to the more urgent symptoms developing themselves, he appeared 
to be endeavouring to recollect Dr. B., and addressed him as Dr. Death. 



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THE SUICIDAL DI8FOSITIOK. 201 

that the offensive part of the speech had given him, and he 
by degrees recovered his usual state of mind.^ 

We are incUned to believe, with D'Israeli, " that there are 
crimes for which men are hanged, but of which they might 
easily have been cured by physical means." Damien, who 
attempted the assassination of Louis XV., and who in conse- 
quence was subjected to the most refined tortures, persisted 
to the last in declaring that if he had been bled, as he wished 
and implored to be, the morning previously, he never would 
have endeavoured to take the life of the king. 

Gaubius relates the case of a lady of a too inflammable con- 
stitution, whom her husband had reduced to a model of de- 
corum by phlebotomy. 

In the month of April, M. Delormel was called to Madame 
Chatelain, at the Chateau de Armanvillers, who, according to 
the statement of the physician in attendance, was ^^melan- 
choUc, hypochondriacal, and insane." She had made several 
attempts to commit suicide, and was carefully guarded. She 
had been bled, purged, and well dosed with anti-spasmodics, 
but to no purpose. M. Delormel examined the patient very 
carefully, and came to a conclusion respecting her case very 
different firom that which had been formed by the other phy- 
sicians who had seen her. The lady was thirty-seven years 
of age, of a very neuro-sanguineous temperament, active in 
body, and most amiable in disposition. For more than two 
years she had complained of burning heat in her stomach and 
bowels ; digestion was painful, and constipation habitual. The 
catamenise were irregular ; she was much emaciated, and the 
symptoms of melancholia and hypochondriasis were well 
marked. 

Madame C. could not bear to see her husband and children, 
to whom she had, when in good health, been affectionately 
attached. Her chief desire was solitude, and the predominant 
idea was the conviction of approaching death. From an at- 
tentive examination of the case, it was pronounced one of 
chronic gastro-enteritis. Eighty leeches were applied to the 



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202 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF 

abdomen^ proper medicines were administered^ her diet r^u- 
lated, and in less than a month she was completely restored to 
health of body and mind. 

When it is evident that the patient is suffering fix>mcere- 
^kJ conge stion, and yet general bleeding is inadmissible, 
the application of cold to the head by means of a shower bath 
has often been productive of much good. A young lady who 
laboured under the disposition to suicide consulted an eminent 
living physician, communicating to him the particulars of her 
malady, bitterly lamenting the unfortunate feeling that was 
undermining her health. After trying various remedies with- 
out effecting much relief, a cold shower bath was recommended 
every morning. In the course of ten days, the desire to 
commit self-destruction was entirely removed, and never after- 
wards returned. 

A timely-administered purge has been known jo dispel the 
desire of self-destruction. Esquirol knew a man who was de- 
cidedly insane whenever he allowed his bowels to be in an 
inactive condition. 

A patient of Faket had well-marked suicidal delirium. So 
urgent were the symptoms, that he was placed under restraint 
and carefully watched. Active cathartics were administered, 
and Falret states that the largest tape-worm he ever saw was 
evacuated. The idea of suicide soon vanished, and the man 
was restored in perfect health to his friends and family.* 

Fodere examined the bodies of three persons in one family 
who fell by their own hands, and in the three cases consider- 
able disease was discovered in the intestinal canal, which had 
been irritating the brain and disturbing its manifestations. 



* A medical student, twenty years of age, was seized with mania, arising 
from the presence of worms in the intestines. He felt the most acute pains 
in the different regions of his body, appearing to him as if persons were 
driving arrows into him, more particularly in the palms of his hands and soles 
of his feet. This caused him to utter most distressing cries, to seek to be 
alone, and prevented him from walking. The intolerable pains and madness 
left him as soon as the worms were expelled. 



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THE SUICIDAL DtSPOSITION. 203 

In the instances just referred to, the indication of physical 
disease of the primse yisd were but trifling during life. 

Disease of the stomach and liver frequently incite to sui- 
cide ; hepatic affections notoriously disturb the equilibrium of 
the mind. Many a case exhibiting an inclination to suicide 
has been cured by a few doses of blue pill. The physician 
should direct his attention to the condition of the uterine 
fimction and the state of tiie skin. During the puerperal 
state, a tendency to suicide is often manifested. 

A lady, shortly after her accouchement, expressed, with great 
determination, her intention to kill hersel£ Her bowels had 
not been properly attended to, and a brisk cathartic was 
given. This entirely removed the suicidal disposition. 

Any irregularity in the action of the uterine organ may 
give rise to the same inclination. Under such circumstances, 
emmenagc^es will do much good. 

German writers dwell much upon the connexion between 
suicide and derangement of the cutaneous secretion. That 
this function should also be attended to there cannot be a doubt, 
although we cannot call to mind any cases of suicide which 
could be directly traced to suppressed perspiration. 

In some cases, a blister applied and kept open in the neigh- 
bourhood of the head has effected much good. In other in- 
stances, issues have been beneficial, particularly in persons 
subject to cerebral congestion. There is, however, a condi- 
tion of brain accompanying the suicidal disposition which may 
be denominated a state of cerebral irritation, in which bleeding 
or depletion would be injurious. In such cases, friction on the 
spine, and the administration of anti-spasmodics, gentle ape- 
rients, and alteratives, will be serviceable. 

Sufficient attention is not paid to those precursory symptoms 
which indicate the existence of a disposition to suicide. In 
two-thirds of the cases that occur, the act is preceded by pre- 
monitory signs, which, if attended to, will prevent the de- 
velopement of the propensity. 

With very few exceptions, the mental symptoms are those 



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204 PHYSICAL TREATBfENT OF 

which are principally manifested in these cases. Lowness of 
spirits, a love of solitude, an indisposition to follow any occu- 
pation which requires exercise of the mind, are genersdly ex- 
hibited The person's suspicions become roused ; he fiuicies 
his dearest friends are regardless of his interests, or are plot- 
ting against his life. He takes no pleasure in the family 
circle. He may be suffering from some evident physical 
malady, acting through sympathy on the brain, and deranging 
its frmctions ; and then he will often refer to his disease, and 
express his utter hopelessness of ever being cured. There is 
an expression of countenance generally present in a person 
who meditates suicide, which, if once seen, cannot easily be 
forgotten. Suicidal mania is easily recognised by the experi- 
enced physician. The surgeon of a large establishment in the 
environs of the metropolis informed me, that in six cases out 
of ten he could detect, by the appearance of the eye, the ex- 
istence of the desire to commit self-destruction. A young 
gentleman, a few days previously, had been admitted into the 
house as a patient. The surgeon, after exami n ing and pre- 
scribing for the lunatic, said to one of the keepers, '' You must 

watch Mr. careftdly, for I feel assured he will attempt his 

life." Everything with which he might injure himself were 
he so disposed, was taken from him ; but it appears that he had 
resolved to make away with himself, and had carefully con- 
cealed a pen-knife in his boot. On the evening of the day on 
which he was admitted he made a dreadftd gash in his throat, 
but failed in injuring any large vessel He confessed that he 
had determined to sacrifice his life ; he said, '^ It has been 
pre-ordained that I should fall by my own hands, and I am only 
ftdfilling my destiny by cutting my throat 1" Shortly after 
this he was removed ; and as we have been subsequently in- 
formed, sufficient care not being taken of him, he eventually 
succeeded in killing himself. 

How difficult it is for the medical man to persuade the 
friends of a person who has evinced a disposition to suicide, of 
the absolute necessity of his being confined and carefiilly 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 205 

watched I A physician, dining with a friend, met by acci- 
dent a young lady who had exhibited, for a few days pre- 
viously, a shrewdness of manner that attracted the notice of 
those with whom she associated. He also observed a wild- 
ness and incoherence about her ideas ; but what particularly 
struck his attention was, the peculiar expression of counte- 
nance which so often denotes the presence of suicidal mania.* 
He felt convinced in his own mind that the lady meditated 
self-destruction ; and so firmly persuaded was he of the fact, 
that he seriously spoke to the gentleman at whose table he 
was dining on the subject, and urged him, as he was inti- 
mately acquainted with the young lady's family, to suggest 
the propriety of having medical advice, and of carefully watch- 
ing the movements of the lady. This suggestion was treated 
with ridicule, and of course the subject was not broached 
again. Two days after the conversation took place, intelli- 
gence was brought that the lady had taken a large dose of 
laudanum, and had died from its effects ! A little prudent 
caution might have saved the life of this poor unfortunate being. 
In cases in which the disposition to suicide has been 
evinced, the patient ought to be carefully watched, and, under 
some circumstances, placed under restraint Men who talk 
loudly of the effects of moral coercion, and who repudiate the 

* << When powerful feelings or passions are in active operation, in the insane 
or in the sane, they draw the muscles of the face into particular forms; and, 
if they continue for a length of time to be greatly predominant, they impress 
upon the countenance an appearance indicative of the character. This is 
felt and acted upon unconsciously in the common intercourse of life. A 
good countenance is a letter of recommendation ; and we have, in spite of 
ourselves, an unfavourable feeling towards a stranger where this is absent. 
Now in the generality of suicidal cases, the desponding feelings are in con- 
stant and active operation ; hence there is usually a melancholy and gloomy 
expression of countenance. This arises from no mysterious cause peculiar to 
insanity, but is perfectly intelligible on common physiognomical principles ; 
but there are numerous instances where the most experienced physician would 
be unable to detect, by inspection only, the slightest mark of either a dispo- 
sition to suicide or insanity. The absence of this expression must not, there- 
fore, induce us to suppose that this disposition does not exist." — Sir W. 
Ellis. 



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206 PHYSICAL TRBATilENT OF 

idea of stndt-waistcoats &c., have had but little practical 
experience of the treatment of the insane. Moral discipline 
has done much good* Deeply should we regret to see the sys- 
tem which has been in force within our own recollection 
again introduced into our lunatic asylums. In endeavouring 
to avoid Scylla we have fidlen into Charybdis. How many 
lives are lost in consequence of the patients not being pro- 
perly secured when they have exhibited a desire to commit 
self-destruction. 

A lady who had attempted to destroy herself was very pro- 
perly sent to an asylum. Having expressed a determination to 
avail herself of the first opportunity for carrying her intentions 
into execution^ she was most carefully guarded. She was never 
allowed to be out of sight ; a trustworthy nurse always kept 
by her side ; and in the course of time she was pronounced 
recovered. But as it was not considered prudent to send her 
home at once^ she was separated firom the other inmates of 
the house^ and allowed to reside with the surgeon and 
matron of the establishment Even under these circum- 
stances it was thought better not to allow her to be wholly by 
herself, fearful that the disposition might again suddenly de- 
velope itself She resided with the surgeon for some weeks, 
and appeared completely welL She expressed much astonish- 
ment when told that she had attempted her own life ; she was 
apparently horrified at the idea. She was sitting with the 
matron one morning after breakfast ; the surgeon was going 
round the asylum, when a child was heard to cry up stairs, as 
if it had received some injury. The matron immediately lefl 
the room ; she was not absent three minutes, and when she 
returned she was astonished to find the young lady had 
vanished. Immediate search was made for her, but she was not 
to be found, when, looking behind the curtain in the parlour, 
the lady was discovered hanging to the cornice I In that short 
space of time she had succeeded in suspending herself, and 
was quite dead. Of course we cannot determine whether she 
had recovered, and this was but a sudden recurrence of the 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 207 

suicidal mania, or whether she had cunningly concealed her 
ailment for the purpose of throwing her attendant off her 
guard, and thus being enabled to effect her dreadful purpose. 
We should be more disposed to accede to the latter solution of 
the question, knowing the extreme cunning of such lunatics, 
and the ingenious stratagems they often have recourse to in 
order to accomplish any mischievous object they have in view, 

A person who manifested indications of mental aberration 
was found in the act of hanging himself Upon being de- 
tected, he promised most solemnly to abandon his rash reso- 
lution. He attempted a second time to kill himself by cut- 
ting his throat, but the wound was not &taL He was now 
placed under the care of a gentleman who had devoted much 
attention to the treatment of insanity ; and, knowing his pro* 
pensity, the keeper received strict injunctions to watch his 
movements carefully. Everything by which he could injure 
himself was removed from his room, he was shaved every day 
by a barber, and no instrument of any kind was allowed to 
be in his possession. He was confined for nine months ; and 
it appeared, firom what afterwards occurred, that he had, 
during the whole of this period, been absorbed in the one idea 
of how he should contrive to commit suicide. He was dis- 
covered one momii^ hanging by the neck fix>m the bed- 
stead, quite dead. How he got possession of the cord which 
suspended him, puzzled everybody acquainted with the his- 
tory of the case. At last the enigma was solved. It appears 
that parcels of books and newspapers had occasionally been 
sent to him by his family, tied with twine ; and he had care- 
fully, and unknown to the keeper, concealed each piece, 
until he had collected a quantity to constitute a cord suffi- 
ciently strong with which to hang himsel£ For nine months 
this idea had exclusive possession of his mind ; and although 
he exhibited no apparent symptoms of insanity, he had 
evidently been contemplating suicide for the period already 
specified. 

A female had made repeated attempts, during her residence 



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208 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF 

in the asylum at Wakefield, to hang herself but had been so 
watched that she had not succeeded. One eveningy the 
servant, on going to remove all her clothes out of her bedroom, 
thought she saw something bright on the top of one of her 
under garments ; upon examination, this was found to be a 
pin. She had contrived just before bed-time to take off her * 
garter; and, knowing that her pockets as well as her clothes 
would all be removed, she contrived to pin it within her dress, 
so high up that it would not easily be perceivied. Very pro- 
videntially, the brightness of the metal discovered it, and she 
was again prevented firom accomplishing her purpose. By 
degrees the propensity wore off; and after a residence of 
eighteen years in the Hanwell Asylum, Sir W. Ellis found 
her a few years ago, living, though upwards of eighty years of 
age, in a comparatively tranquil state, waiting her removal in 
the ordinary course of nature. 

When persons determined on suicide find that they are 
unceasingly watched, and so carefully secured that they have 
no opportunity of executing their design, they will assume a 
most cheerful manner for days and weeks together, in order to 
lull suspicion ; and when a favourable opportunity offers, it is 
never neglected. 

A man who had long been in a state of despondency, and 
had made many attempts to hang himself, but had always 
been prevented, very suddenly appeared much better. He 
became apparently cheerful, and being desirous of employ- 
ment, was sent out with a large party into the hay-field. He 
continued in this and other out-door occupations for some 
time, gradually improving. One evening, on returning firom 
the field, when the rest of the party went in to tea, (which 
they were allowed when hay-making,) he told the farming 
man that he did not feel thirsty, and as it was very wann he 
would rather remain at the door. He was left there. A 
short time aft;erwards his keeper came down to inquire for 
him, and being told where he had been left, immediately 
exclaimed, " Then he has hung himself!'* It was also 



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THE SUICroAL DISPOSITION. 209 

singularly impressed upon his mind, that it was in one par- 
ticular out-house that he had done it There he went, and 
found him suspended and dead, as he expected. 

" A noble lord, (says Dr. Rowley,) whose family I had the 
honour to attend, had received, it is said, some little reproof 
from a great personage, concerning a military omission. It 
seized his lordship's mind so seriously, that on examination it 
was evident to me that suicide was intended. All weapons 
and dangerous means whatever were removed. It being a 
circumstance of delicacy, I sent for his lordship's son, then 
about eighteen, from Westminster school, communicated my 
apprehensions, and requested his constant attendance on his 
noble parent This the young man executed for several days, 
and prevented the commission of the crime apprehended. In 
my absence a few hours in the country, a very eminent, 
learned, and indeed remarkably sagacious physician, but my 
mortal and vindictive enemy, was called in. I had, contrary 
to medical etiquette^ enforced the necessity of promptly 
bleeding a most noble lady in an apoplexy, which saved life, 
but brought down invectives, hatred, and vengeance on me. 
Whether out of opposition to my vigilance, or from malicious 
motives, it would be di£Scult to determine, but the noble lord 
was liberated from all restraint, and my apprehensions treated 
by injurious insinuations and with contempt Thirty-six 
hours had scarcely elapsed before the noble lord put a period 
to his existence, by a sword he had concealed, which had been 
a present from Prince Ferdinand : he wounded his breast in 
two places, but the third thrust pierced his heart Thus 
perished a nobleman, whose liberality, feelings, and many 
virtues, did honour to human nature, and who might, in all 
probability, have been now living, had not medical arrogance 
and illiberality, merely from personal ambition, dictated 
error, at the risk of human destruction I Horridum ! valde 
horriduml^ 

The physician should constantly bear in mind this important 
&ct connected with the suicidal disposition — viz., that those 



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210 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OP 

determined upon self-destruction often resolve to kill them- 
selves in a particular manner, and however anxious they may 
be to quit life, they have been known to wait for months and 
years, until they have had an opportunity of effecting their 
purpose according to their own preconceived notions. A 
man who has attempted to drown himself will not readily be 
induced to cut his throat, and vice versa. A morbid idea is 
firequently associated in the maniac's mind with a particular 
kind of death, and if he be removed from all objects likely 
to awaken this notion, the inclination to suicide may be 
removed. 

An old man, upwards of seventy years of age, who had 
a market garden, near the asylum at Wakefield, consulted 
the late Sir W. Ellis as to the best mode of destroying him- 
self, as he had made up his mind not to live any longer. He 
said he had thought of hanging himself, if Sir William could 
not recommend an easier death. The physician talked to him 
some time upon the heinousness of the crime he contemplated, 
and endeavoured to shew him that hanging was a most hor- 
rible death, from the suffocation that must be felt. His con- 
versation was attended vrith little success. Finding that the 
chylopoietic viscera were a good deal disordered, he prescribed 
for him, and sent to inform his wife that he ought never to be 
left alone. The medicine had the effect of restoring the 
secretions to a healthy action, and he got better. Sir William 
heard no more of him for some time, when he was at length 
informed that he was discovered dead in a Uttle shed in his 
garden, where he used to keep his tools. But so fixed was 
the mode in his mind, by which he was determined to accom- 
plish his death, that, though the place was so low he could 
not stand upright in it, and he had not a rope or a string with 
which he could suspend himself, he contrived to effect his 
purpose by getting a willow twig, and making it into a noose, 
which he fastened to one of the rafters. He stooped to put 
his head through it, and then pushing his feet from under 
him, suspended himself until he died. Now, if he had not 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 211 

made up his mind to destroy himself in this particular way, 
he might have accomplilshed it with much greater ease by 
drowning himself in the pond in his garden, or by cutting his 
throat with his garden knife, which he always had about him ; 
but neither of these was the mode he previously intended. 

It may be practically useM to all who have the immediate 
care of suicidal patients to bear this in mind ; and if the me- 
dical man can find out that any particular plan is contemplated, 
he ought to be especially careful to remove the means of ac- 
complishing it out of the patient's reach, and to prevent him 
having an opportunity of carrying it into execution.* 

" A medical fnend," says Dr. Burrows, " who had much 
enjoyed life, and never met with any circumstances to occasion 
him particular disquietude, when at the age of forty-five 
became very dyspeptic, low-spirited, and restless. He gra- 
dually shunned society; but stiU, though with great reluc- 
tance, pursued his professional avocations. This depression 
increased so much that he often told his wife that he should 
consult me. (He knew very well that both his father and 
grandfather had destroyed themselves.) 

*^ One morning he^kept in bed much longer than usual, and 
a relation calling, went up, without being announced, to see 
him. He seemed composed, at length complained of being 
very faint, and upon raising him up, blood was perceived on 
his hands. Upon examination it was discovered, at the 
moment his fiiend entered the chamber, he was employed 4a 
opening the femoral artery; that there had been consider^ 
able hemorrhage from the small vessels he had divided. I 
saw him within an hour afterwards. He had recovered firom 
the syncope, and expressed great sorrow for what he had 
done; described with minuteness his case ; lamented he had 
not seen me sooner, but that he could not muster sufficient 
resolution ; consented to place himself under my superinten- 
dence ; and, in fact, to follow all my directions. 

* Ellis on Insanity. 
p2 



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212 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF 

'^ I placed him in charge of a careful keeper. It ^as agreed 
that he should be removed into lodgings in the environs of 
town ; and he therefore submitted to the necessary medical 
treatment 

'' He remained two days at home, till lodgings could be 
procured, during which he was calm and rational; but there 
existed the suicidal eye, which sufficiently denoted that he 
was not to be trusted. 

" On the third morning, his keeper, having a violent attack 
of rheumatism in his right arm, could not shave him, and 
another person was obliged to be trusted. This person, un- 
fortunately, laid the razor on the dressing-table ; and, while 
his face was turned away, and the keeper was heating some 
water a few feet from the table, the patient suddenly jumped 
up, seized the razor, and in a moment applied it to his throat, 
and effectually divided the carotid artery." 

A case somewhat similar we find recorded by the same 

authority. Major had been wounded at the battle 

of Waterloo. He had since recovered his health, but a great 
depression of spirits followed. The maniacal diathesis was 
hereditary. By degrees he became more desponding, his ideas 
wandered, and at length a suicidal propensity was evident. 
On visiting him, Dr. Burrows strongly urged the necessity of 
placing him under the supervision of an experienced keeper ; 
but here, as in too many cases, his family opposed this ad- 
vice, and would not permit proper restraint, but put him 
under the care of a nurse only. In the evening, he retired 
early to bed. The nurse went to tea in his chamber, sup- 
posing her charge to be asleep. The patient watched the 
opportunity, jumped out of bed, seized a knife on the table, 
wounded, and would have effectually cut his throat, had not 
the nurse interposed. 

" A clergyman in Warwickshire told me," says Dr. Conolly, 
" that he was requested, some years ago, to interfere respect- 
ing certain measures proper for securing a neighbour who had 
exhibited unquestionable symptoms of insanity. His neigh- 



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THE SUICIDAI^ DISPOSITION. 213 

hour, however, was not to be met with on the day when it 
was intended to remove him, and when he reappeared, which 
was either the next day or in a day or two afterwards, he was 
quite in a sound state, in which condition he has lived with 
great comfort up to the present time. On the other hand, an 
instance came under my own observation in which a gentle- 
man had shewn many proo& of disordered mind for the space 
of three or four months, and his actions becoming dangerous, 
it was resolved to remove him. About two hours before I 
was to call for him, he was so quiet and orderly in a con- 
versation with the old family-apothecary, that the latter 
gentleman rode off to the relations of the patient, relenting 
all the way concerning the proposed restraint, and pmrposing 
to solicit its postponement; in which attempt he was only 
prevented by being overtaken by a messenger before he had 
ridden half a mile, who came to inform him that his apparently 
tranquil patient had nearly blown up his house and his whole 
family with gunpowder, having for that purpose thrown a 
pound and a half of it into the fire, sitting by to see it ex- 
plode. In another case, a gentleman had made repeated 
attempts at self-destruction, but seemed to have got well, and 
was no longer much looked after ; yet after living comfortably 
at home for a little while, and having passed a cheerful even- 
ing in reading to his wife, he concluded it, when she had 
retired, by hanging himself in the parlour. 

" These lamentable accidents are, of course, always pro- 
ductive of disagreeable feelings in the mind of a practitioner ; 
but never more so than when he has been too confident of 
the absence of danger. It is questionable, perhaps, whether 
there are not, in all these cases, certain means of which pru- 
dence might avail itself, for the purpose of ascertaining the 
exact state of the supposed convalescent's mind, as well as the 
existence of such intentions in a lunatic as are inconsistent 
with the safety of other persons, or with the preservation of 
his own existence. The lunatic may maintain a very guarded 
silence on these matters so long as they remain quite unsus- 



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214 PHYSICAL TREATBfENT OF 

pected, but is not very well able, in general, to prevent his 
intentions becoming visible to those who have begun to 
suspect him. These intentions^ too, are generallj associated 
with certain recollections, or certain topics, or certain anti- 
pathies or prepossessions, which may be found out and 
brought into the conversation ; in which case, the lunatic can 
seldom conceal his agitation, his superstitious belief, his anger, 
or his inly-cherished hope of full revenge. Indeed, he is 
often in no degree solicitous to conceal his feelings. There 
cannot be anywhere a more harmless person than Jonathan 
Martin; his manners are mild, his occupations are of the 
most peaceM description, his language is strikingly simple 
and unassuming ; but take up the Bible, and you have touched 
the chord of his insanity ; you find that, to destroy the noblest 
monuments of ancient piety and munificence seems to him a 
work to which God has especially called him. The effect of 
possessing a key to the excited feelings of a lunatic is, indeed, 
always surprising to those unaccustomed to their peculiarities. 
You walk with a man who seems to delight in the simplest 
pleasures of a state of innocence ; he admires the flowers of 
the field and the beauty of the sky, or he dwells with satis- 
faction on the contemplation of whatever is generous and 
good ; nothing can exceed the mildness of his manner : but 
a single word calculated to rouse a morbid train of ideas, a 
name, the reminiscence of a place, or any trifling inad- 
vertency, will convert this placid being into a demon; the 
tones of his voice, his gestures, his countenance, his language, 
assume, in a moment, the expression of a fiend; and you 
discover that opportunity alone is wanting to effect some 
dreadfiil crime. The discovery of such a design is certainly 
not always so easy, but wherever suspicion exists, strict 
superintendence is warranted, or various degrees of restraint 
must be determined upon, and steadily adhered to."* 

The following cases will shew the necessity of guarding 

* Indications of Insanity; 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 215 

a person by the strictest surveillance firom the moment that 
he evinces the slightest symptom of mental alienation^ when 
it manifests itself by incongruous expressions or attempts at 
self-destruction. This precept should be engraven on the 
mind of every medical man^ and no feeling of false delicacy 
should prevent his communicating his suspicions and wishes 
the moment he considers measures of precaution necessary. 
In these cases, the loss of an hour may make all the difference 
between life and death. 

M. Piorry was called to the Hotel de Bibliotheque, where 
he found a man of athletic form and military appearance in a 
state of complete insensibility. He manifested all the indi- 
cations of apoplexy or epilepsy. Some time elapsed before 
the physician could ascertain what was the matter; he could 
not obtain aay satis&ctory answers to his repeated questions. 
At last the patient made Piorry understand that he had 
swallowed a key. Professor Roux was sent for, who, after 
considerable diflSculty, succeeded in extracting the foreign 
body from the oesophagus, along with an oblong piece of 
copper attached by a chain to the handle of the instrument 
On the succeeding night he made fresh attempts to destroy 
himself; first by hanging with the bed-clothes, and, on that 
mode not proving successfril, he endeavoured to strangle him- 
self by squeezing two chairs against his necL Thwarted in 
effecting his design, he again swallowed the key, and he was 
nearly dead when he was discovered, and the key extracted 
from his throat He was now confined in a strait-waistcoat, 
and was subjected to proper medical treatment In the course 
of a short period, all disposition to suicide whs removed, and 
his mind was restored to perfect integrity.* 

A soldier, who was greatly beloved in his regiment fi^r his 
exemplary conduct and amiable qualities, became affected 
with suicidal melancholy, and fired a pistol into his mouth. 

* Journ. Gen. de M^decioe^ Juillet^ 1822. 



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216 PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF 

The havoc made was dreadful; but by great exertions on the 
part of M. Petit, who attended the case, his life was preserved. 
During his confinement, he manifested great anxiety for his 
recovery, and expressed himself horrified that he should ever 
have attempted to commit self-destruction. The surgeon and 
his friends entertained every hope that all suicidal tendency 
was dissipated. The result, however, proved that the whole 
was a manoeuvre on the part of the patient to lull suspicion 
to rest, and when he had succeeded by this dissimulation in 
throwing his friends off their guard, he put an effectual period 
to his existence whilst in the wards of the hospital 

The following case exhibits some practical points exceed- 
ingly worthy of record, and displays besides, in a remarkable 
degree, the control a lunatic disposed to suicide acquires over 
himself, his conversation, and conduct, when he wishes to lull 
suspicion to sleep. In this instance, says Dr. Burrows, who 
relates the particulars of the case, a most judicious physician, 
and those in whom he had confidence, all experienced in 
the phases of this wonderful malady, insanity, and its no less 
wonderful concomitant, suicide, were completely deceived. 

A medical friend of the Doctor's, travelling over Shooter's 
Hill, observed a gentleman walking up it, his carriage fol- 
lowing him. When opposite to each other, the stranger sud- 
denly fell on his knees in the dirt, and lifted up his hands, as 
if in earnest prayer. The friend stopped his post-chaise at so 
extraordinary a sight, and soon found by his looks and man- 
ners that the poor gentleman was insane. He immediately 
accompanied him back to London, and placed him under Dr. 
B.'s care till his relations were informed of his state. 

The history of the case was this: — The patient was a 
cavalry oflScer of rank, aged thirty-five, and had particularly 
distinguished himself at the recent battle of Waterloo. On 
that occasion he had two horses killed under him, and was 
himself wounded in four places. He was first struck on the 
crown of his helmet by the splinter of a shell, which wounded 



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(( OF THE \\ 

/ERSITY 

°' .^/ 

SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 217 

the scalp and stunned him ; he was next shot through the 
fleshy part of the thigh by a grape shot, which at the same 
time killed his first horse; fi'om these two wounds he lost 
much blood. Whilst lying under his second horse, he was 
pierced in the groin by a lance ; and in this helpless condition 
he received firom a French drummer, who was rifling the dead 
and dying, a violent blow on the temple fi'om the butt-end of 
a musket, firom the effects of which, he remained some time 
insensible. He was afterwards conveyed in a most deplorable 
state as a prisoner within the French lines, and though 
released the same evening by the victorious allies, a long while 
elapsed before his wounds and exhausted condition received 
any attention. 

He inherited a predisposition to insanity, and was natu- 
raQy reserved, diffident, and taciturn, but affectionate and 
generous. 

When he recovered from his wounds, he often complained 
of pains in his head ; and it was observed that his temper 
became fretfiil and suspicious ; that he slept ill, was depressed 
in spirits, and courted solitude. These symptoms increased 
latterly. At length he imagined himseliF the sport of his 
brother officers, and many other delusions arose. 

There was a moral cause likewise operating which, on a 
constitution that had recently received so severe a shock, no 
doubt greatly influenced his disorder. He had applied for 
promotion in consequence of his sufferings in the service. 
This was withheld, as he thought, ungraciously, and too 
long ; and when he was raised a step, his mind was already 
too much disturbed duly to appreciate it The anniversary 
of the glorious battle of Waterloo was just passed, and the 
recollection of it was painfiil to him. In this state he came 
to town. 

He was exceedingly sober and temperate by habit; but 
during the day before, with a brother officer, he was persuaded 
to commit an unusual excess in wine, with the hope of raising 
his spirits. 



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218 PHTBICAL TREATMENT OF 

This proved a match to the mine. It exploded^ and his 
intellects became completely deranged. 

Dr. Burrows found him with his countenance veiy wild^ the 
eyes injected and pupils contracted^ pulse quick and weak, 
tongue white, and great thirst He had had no sleep for five 
nights. Sometimes exalted, violent, and loquacious; some- 
times depressed and taciturn. He was rather languid, which 
was imputed to his having lost full twenty ounces of blood 
trom the rupture of an hsemorrhoidal vesseL 

It is not necessary to detail the medical treatment adopted, 
but we will proceed to those points in the case which are 
relevant 

He was placed in lodgings with a carefiil attendant In 
about three weeks he was nearly well, when unluckily a whit- 
low formed on his finger, and as one of his delusions was that 
he was rotten in every part, it was the cause, besides pain, of 
considerable irritation, and it broke his rest ; other delusions 
returned, but subsided with the pain of the whitlow, and he 
again greatly improved. 

In six weeks he was so well that the Doctor took his leave, 
advising him to travel during the remainder of the autmnn. 
The next day some domestic occurrence occasioned violent 
irritation, and he again relapsed into despondency, unattended 
by paroxysms of violence; but he shortly recovered. 

However, instead of going into the country and varying the 
scene, his lady brought him into town and permitted unre- 
stricted intercourse with his relations, &c. He grew quarrel- 
some, suspicious, and very low-spirited, and began to abuse 
his wife. It was then earnestly recommended that he should 
be completely separated firom all intercourse with her and his 
connexions, but the advice was disregarded. 

A boil now formed on his body. This irritated him more 
than the whitlow, and his delusions about his rottenness were 
more prominent than ever; but when the boil suppurated and 
discharged, his mind again improved. 

No persuasion could induce his fiiends to give him exercise 



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THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION. 219 

or diversion, or change the scene. He therefore sat all day 
brooding over his fantasies, and reading religious books ; for 
now there was added to his delusions an impression that he 
was very wicked, and had neglected his religious duties. His 
face, too, assumed the suicidal expression. 

A month afterwards, a consultation with two eminent phy- 
sicians confirmed Dr. Burrows' opinion of the treatment to be 
pursued. But, notwithstanding this consultation, all reme« 
dial aid was neglected, and he was allowed to follow his own 
inclinations, both in religious matters and in totally secluding 
himself In about three weeks all the symptoms were so much 
increased that he was sent to a private asylum. A few days 
afterwards, while walking out, he tried to drown himself, but 
was rescued by his keeper. He continued in this desponding 
state some months, when, rather suddenly, he appeared much 
better ; and continuing to improve, his physician thought him 
well, and he returned home. Two days only had passed, 
when he called on the same physician, acknowledged that he 
was as bad as ever, and entreated earnestly that he might 
again be received into his house. He was so on that day. 
The next day he poisoned himself and died. 

It proved, that he had never abandoned the desire of com- 
mitting suicide ; but he so well concealed it, and otherwise 
conducted himself, as to lead to the conclusion that he had 
recovered. It was, in fact, a scheme, the sole object of which 
was to get out and buy laudanum. Having procured a suffi- 
cient quantity, but anxious- to save his wife the agony of wit- 
nessing the act he meditated, he preferred returning to the 
asylum to execute it 

A few general principles have been laid down in this 
chapter to direct the practitioner in the management of 
certain cases of suicidal insanity. The success of the treat- 
ment will in a great measure be dependent on the physician 
making himself acquainted with the minute history of each 
case submitted to his professional care. No particular rules 
can be adduced that will be appKcable to all cases of this 



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220 PHYSICAL TREATMENT^ ETC. 

description; much must be left to the judgment of the medi- 
cal man. The physician should^ however^ never forget that 
whatever apparently may be the physical disturbance going 
on in the system^ the brain, and the brain alone, is the seat of 
the disease in all cases of suicide, and to the condition of that 
organ most particular attention ought to be paid 



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221 



CHAPTER XL 
IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 



The instinct of self-preservation — ^The love of life— Dr. Wolcott's death-bed — 
Anecdote of the Duke de Montebello— Louis XI. of France — Singular 
death of a celebrated lav^er — Dr. Johnson's horror of dying — ^The 
organ of destruction universal — Illustrations of its influence — Sir W. Scott, 
on the motives that influence men in battle — Have vre any test of in- 
sanity? — Mental derangement not a specific disease — Importance of 
keeping this in view — Insanity not always easily detected — Is lowness of 
spirits an evidence of derangement ? — ^The cunning of lunatics — Esquirol's 
opinion that insanity is always present — Moral insanity — ^The remarkable 
case of Frederick of Prussia — Suicide often the first symptom of insanity — 
Cases in which persons have been restored to reason from loss of blood, 
after attempting suicide — The cases of Cato, Sir Samuel Romilly, Lord 
Castlereagh, Colton, and Chatterlon examined — Concluding remarks. 

Nature has ordained no law more universal in its influence 
than the desire which all animated beings display, and which 
is indeed the governing principle in the greater part of their 
actions, to preserve their existence, and to secure themselves 
from the influence of circumstances that bring it into danger. 
That " no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth it 
and cherisheth it," is an axiom laid down in scripture, and one 
founded on reason and observation.* 

♦ ** Pain is an evil ; death, the deprivation of every hope or comfort in this 
life. No man in his senses will burn, drown, or stab himself; for these all 
produce what are called evils ; neither can any of these actions be executed 



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222 19 THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

One of our poets^ in alluding to this subject, after declaring 
life to be the dream of a shadow, " a weak-built isthmus be- 
tween two eternities, so frail that it can neither sustain wind 
nor wave," yet avers his preference of a few days', nay, a few 
hours' longer residence upon earth to all the fame that wealth 
and honour could bestow — 

" Fain would I see that prodigal 
Who his to-morrow would bestow 
For all old Homer's life, e*er since he died till now.** 

** Is there anything on earth I can do for you?" said Taylor 
to Walcott, as he lay on his death-bed. The passion for life 
dictated the answer, ** Give me back my youth ?" These were 
the last words of the celebrated Peter Pindar. 

Dr. Johnson had a superstitious fear of death. Boswell 
asked him whether we might not fortify the mind for the ap- 
proach of death. Johnson answered in a passion, *^ No, Sir, 
let it alone ! It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. 
The act of dying is not of importance ; it lasts so short a time." 
But when Boswell persisted in the conversation, Johnson was 
thrown into such a state of agitation that he thundered out, 
" Give us no more of this ;" and turning to Boswell, he said, 
with great earnestness, " Don't let us meet to-morrow!" 

" O thou strong heart I 
There's such a covenant 'twixt the world and thee. 
They're loath to break !'* 

There is an anecdote recorded of one of the favourite mar- 
shals of Napoleon, the Duke de Montebello, which finely 
illustrates the strength of this instinctive principle. During a 

without the probability of pain in the convulsive action or struggles of death. 
As no rational being will voluntarily give himself pain, or deprive himself of 
life, which certainly, while human beings preserve their senses, must be ac- 
knowledged evils, it follows that every one who commits suicide is indubitably 
non compos mentis, not able to reason justly, but is under the influence of false 
images of the mind ; and therefore suicide should ever be considered an act of 
insanity*' — Dr. Rowley. 



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THE RESULT OP INSAinTY 



i 223 



battle in the south of Germany, the duke was struck by a 
cannon-ball, and so severely wounded that there was no hope 
of his surviving. Summoning the surgeon to his side, he 
ordered the wounds to be dressed ; and when help was de- 
clared to be unavailing, the dying officer, excited into frenzy 
by the love of life, burned with vindictive anger against the 
medical attendant, threatening the heaviest penalties if his 
art should bring no relie£ The dying marshal demanded that 
Napoleon should be sent for, as one who had power to save, 
whose words could stop the efiusion of blood from the wounds, 
and awe nature itself into submission. Napoleon arrived in 
time to witness the last fearful stru^le of expiring nature, and 
to hear his favourite marshal exclaim, as the lamp of life was 
just being extinguished, ^* Save me. Napoleon 1" 

The following case, which occurred in humble life, illus- 
trates the same principle : — A man on the point of death 
vowed he would not die, cursing his physician, who announced 
the near termination of his life, and insisted that he would 
live in defiance of the laws of nature. 

It is recorded of Louis XL of France, that so despe- 
rately did he cling to life when everything warned him to pre- 
pare for death, that he, in accordance with the barbarous phy- 
siology of that age, had the veins of children opened, and 
greedily drank their blood, hoping in that way to fan the 
dying embers of life into a flame ! 

A once celebrated member of the English bar, whose 
strong original powers of mind had been obscured and en- 
feebled by the gross sensuality of his habits, in the extre- 
mity of his last illness, when the shadows of death were fast 
coming over him, with a blasphemous audacity, swore by 
his Creator that he would not die. In this state of morbid 
and impious rage he struggled out of his bed, tottered down 
the stairs, and fell lifeless in the passage. From the excla- 
mation of this unfortunate man, it would seem as if he fancied 
that he held the reins of life in his hands, and could arrest at 
will the rapidity of its descending career. 



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224 18 THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

Spence says, that " Salvini was an odd sort of man, subject 
to gross absences, and a very great sloven. His behaviour in 
his hist hour was as odd as any of his behaviour in all his 
lifetime before could have been. Just as he was departing, 
he cried out in great passion, **J€ne veux p€u mauriry absolu- 
mentl^ 

** The weariest and roost loathed worldly life 
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment, can lay on man, 
Is paradise to what we fear of death.** 

It is not our intention to consider this subject phreno- 
logically. That we have all certain good and evil propensities 
inherent in our nature, developed in various degrees in dif- 
ferent individuals, is admitted by the anti-phrenologist, as well 
as by the most zealous advocate of that science. We need no 
phrenology to tell us, that " the heart of man is deceitfol above 
all things, and desperately wicked :" scripture makes us ac- 
quainted with this fact It is useful to look at the dark as 
well as the bright side of human nature. Without, then, using 
terms which might be considered objectionable, there can be 
no doubt of the existence in the human mind of a propensity 
to destroy, varying in degree fix)m the simple pleasure of 
viewing the destruction of human life, to the most impassioned 
desire to kill others or oneself. This is a natural propen- 
sity, and, when not subdued by the higher faculties of the 
mind, it exhibits itself in the form of unequivocal insanity. 
This feeling to destroy may exist in conjunction with a con- 
sciousness on the part of the individual that he is about to 
commit a crime opposed to the laws of God and man. Dr. 
Gall relates many particulars of cases in which this natural 
propensity became morbidly developed. A student shocked 
his fellow-pupils by the extreme pleasure he took in torment- 
ing insects, birds, and brutes. It was to gratify this inclination^ 
he confessed, that he studied surgery. A man had so strong 
an inclination to kill that he became an executioner; and a 
Dutchman paid his butcher, who furnished ships with exten- 
sives supplies of meat, for being allowed to slaughter the oxen. 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 225 

In these cases we see this natural feeling inordinately de- 
veloped. Subject such persons to the operation of causes 
likely to excite this extra-developed propensity, and they will 
murder others or themselves. 

Gall mentions the case of a person at Vienna who^ after 
witnessing an execution^ was seized with a propensity to kill ; 
at the same time^ he had a clear consciousness of his situation. 
He wept bitterly, struck his head, wrung his hands, and cried 
to his friends to take care and get out of his way. Pinel 
mentions the case of a man, exhibiting no apparent un- 
soundness of intellect, who confessed that he had a propensity 
to kill. He nearly murdered his wife, and then attempted 
several times to destroy himself. 

In 1805, a man was tried at Norwich for wounding his wife 
and cutting his child's throat He had been known to tie 
himself with ropes for a week to prevent his doing mischief 
to others and to himself. A man exposed to a sudden reverse 
of fortune was heard to, exclaim, ^* Do, for God's sake, get me 
confined ;. for if I am at liberty I shall destroy myself and 
wife I I shall do it, unless all means of destruction are re- 
moved ; and therefore do have me put under restraint Some- 
thing above tells me I shall do it ; and I shall I" 

Whenever the mind is exposed to the influence of excited 
feeling, and the operation of the reasoning powers are sus- 
pended, we see the faculty alluded to developed according to 
the constitution of the individual. On the field of battle, 
striking examples occur of the various energies of this inclina- 
tion. One soldier at the appearance of blood experiences the 
intoxication of carnage ; another will swoon at the same sight 
Sir Walter Scott, in the poem in which he has referred to the 
battle of Bannockbum, alludes to the various feelings that in- 
fluence the mind in the heat of an engagement; and it will be 
perceived that he directs particular attention to those who 
are influenced by no other motive than the pleasure they de- 
rive from sacrificing human life : — 

Q 



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226 IB THE ACT OF 8UICIDE 

<< But, oh ! amid that waste of life, 
What various motives fired the strife ! 
The aspiring noble hied for famcy 
The patriot for his country's claim ; 
This knight his youthful strength to prove« 
And that to earn his lady's love ; 
Some fought for ruffian thirst of blood; 
From habit some, or hardihood ; 
But ruffian stem, and soldier good, 

The noble and the slave. 
From various cause the same wild road 
On the same bloody morning trode 

To that daric inn, the grave." 

What conclusion are we justified in drawing fi*om the facts 
just related ? Certainly, that there is in us all a disposition to 
destroy, which is in some wisely and providentially restrained. 
If this view of the matter be correct, we do not think that we 
should be wrong in concluding that by far the great majority 
of cases of suicide result from a morbid development of this 
natiual feeling, consequent upon apriipaiy or secondary affec- 
tion of the brain. This subject is of great interest in a me- 
dico-legal point of view, and is well deserving of serious con- 
sideration. 

Is the act of suicide an evidence of mental derangement? 
Before this question can be satisfactorily answered, it would 
be necessaiy for us to consider that vexata questio — ^what is 
insanity ? Have we an unfailing standard to which to ap- 
peal ; an infallible test by which we can ascertain, with any- 
thing like a proximity to truth, the sanity of any mind ? Per- 
haps, if we were to assert that we considered it impossible to point 
out the line of demarcation which separates the confines of a 
sane and insane condition of the mind, we might lay ourselves 
open to an attack. Again, were we bold enough to proclaim 
our non-adherence to what is considered as the orthodox faith 
in this matter, and assert that we viewed every departure from 
a healthy tone of mind, whether in its intellectual or moral 
manifestations, as an evidence of insanity, we might still more 
expose ourselves to the merciless lash of the critic; yet these 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 227 

are the opinions to which we should feel most disposed to give 
our assent We must make a marked distinction between in- 
sanity considered as a legal and as a medical question ; and 
it is greatly owing to our not keeping this essential diflFer- 
ence in mind that so much useless reasoning and vitupe- 
ration has arisen. The man who is daily exposed to the 
kind and cheering influence of friendship^ and who fancies 
himself alone in the world, without one human being to sym- 
pathize with him in his afflictions, is as essentially mad as he 
is who imagines himself to be made of glass, and is fearfiil of 
sitting down lest he should injure his brittle glutei muscles. 
A poet of antiquity wrote a book describing the miseries 
of the world, and destroyed himself at the conclusion of the 
task. 

" No man who is oppressed with grief," Crichton justly 
observes, "and who is constantly preyed on by mental and 
bodily pain, can be supposed capable of exercising his judg- 
ment at all times correctly ; a fresh misfortune, imaginary or 
real, excites an irresistible desire of relie£ Tired out, hope- 
less, dismayed by the threatening aspect of many a bursting 
cloud; discerning nothing, whichever way he looks, but a 
dreary and comfortless life, how can he be supposed capable 
of taking a clear, calm, and comprehensive view of the obli- 
gations he owes to his Creator or society,, or of reflecting 
on the sudden vicissitudes which daily occur in human life, 
and on which every man may safely form some hope, even in 
the most distressed situation ? The wretchedness of life is 
the only picture present to the mind of one in whom grief has 
terminated in such a state of deep melancholy ; the only ob- 
jects of comparison are the misery of existence on the one 
hand, and the relief he can obtain by withdrawing himself 
from it on the other." 

Insanity results from a disease of the brain. Although 
afterdeath, in many cases, no appreciable structural lesion can 
be detected in the cerebral mass, it would be illogical for us 
to conclude that the sentient organ has not been physically 

q2 

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228 IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

affected. Derangement of mind is but the effect of physical 
disease^ and, like all other diseases, it has an early as well as 
an advanced stage. Medical men have not paid sufficient 
attention to the premonitory indications of mental alienation. 
Having erected an arbitrary standard of derangement in their 
own minds, they have been disposed to consider no deviation 
from mental soundness as insanity, unless it exhibited the symp- 
toms which their preconceived ideas had led them to suppose 
necessary, in order to constitute that disease. They have 
argued as if insanity were a specific disease invariably mani- 
festing the same phenomena, and in this way definitions have 
been framed, by which the soundness of the intellect has been 
tested. It is hardly necessary to say how fallacious all such 
tests must be. The brain, like every other organ, is liable to 
a variety of diseases, in all of which the mental faculties are 
more or less affected. The danger of attempting to erect an 
arbitrary standard of insanity is this : it induces us to overlook 
the incipient symptoms of mental derangement, and to consi- 
der no deviation from soundness of intellect as insanity which 
does not come within the scope of our definition. The early 
symptoms of mental aberration are as much an evidence of the 
presence of insanity, as when the disease is more advanced, 
and the indications become so apparent that no one hesitates 
in pronouncing the individual mad. Medical men who have 
maintained that the act of suicide is not invariably the result 
of insanity have argued as if the mental ailment was always 
self-evident and easily detected ; whereas, those who have 
had any experience in the matter know fiiU well, that occa- 
sionally there are no diseases more difficult of detection than 
those which relate to a morbid condition of the mind. If an 
act of suicide has been committed, and the individual at the 
moment of perpetrating it did not manifest evident symptoms 
of insanity, the conclusion drawn is, that he was perfectly sane 
at the time. That the facts of the case do not warrant this 
inference must be apparent to those who consider the subject 
in an enlarged point of view. If we examine attentively the 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 229 

majority of cases of suicide^ we shall find that the unfortunate 
persons have laboured^ either for some time previously or at the 
very moment^ under depression of spirits^ anxiety of mind^ and 
other symptoms of cerebral derangement. Very few cases of 
suicide take place in which you cannot trace the existence of 
previous mental depression^ produced either by physical or 
moral agents. It may be said that lowness of spirits is not 
insanity; certainly not, according to the fe^a/ definition of the 
term ; but we may always be assured, that if mental anxiety 
or perturbation be more than commensurate with the exciting 
cause, it may be presumed that the individual is labouring 
under the incipient indications of insanity.* This view of 
the case is strengthened if an hereditary predisposition to the 
disease should also be present. 

" It will be said," says Esquirol, " that there are individuals 
who, in the midst of aflSuence, grandeur, and pleasures, and in 
the full enjoyment of reason, have suddenly put an end to their 
existence, immediately after parting with their friends in good 
spirits, or after having written letters on business with perfect 
correctness. Can these be said to be insane when they commit 
suicide ? Yes ; most undoubtedly. Do not monomaniacs ap- 
pear perfectly sane on all other subjects, till the particular idea 
is started which forms the burden of their hallucination ? Are 
they not capable of curbing the expression of their delirium, 
and dissembling their aberration of intellect ? It is the same 

* Lowness of spirits ought to be regarded and treated as insanity, says Ellis, 
and not dreaded as its forerunner. For it is at this stage that suicide is re- 
sorted to. Should this not be the case, specific hallucinations may speedily 
appear, and the agony of mind will be endured as a consequence of bankruptcy, 
the unfaithfulness of a friend, the persecutions of enemies, or the ravages of an 
incurable disease. No demonstration of the untenableness of such grounds, 
no picture of brighter and happier circumstances, will avail to refute or en- 
courage. The sufferer clings to his hoarded misery. There is generally great 
loss of physical strength in cases of this kind, and the pale emaciated coun- 
tenance, dull and sunken eye, and listless dejected form, tell as plainly as the 
querulous complaint, or the long intricate description of sorrows and antici- 
pated evils, to what class the patient belongs. 



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230 18 TH£ ACT OF SUICIDE 

with sane individuals, over whom the suicidal idea tytannizes. 
A physical pain, an unexpected impression, a moral affection, a 
recollection, an indiscreet proposition, the perusal of a passage 
in writing, will occasionally revive the thought and provoke 
the act of suicide, although the individual the instant before 
should be in perfect integrity of mind and body." 

In general, most persons actually insane wish not only to be 
esteemed free Srom the malady, but to be considered as possess- 
ing considerable intellectual endowments ; hence, real lunatics 
seldom allow the existence of their lunacy ; but are always 
endeavouring to conceal from observation those lapses of 
thought, memory, and expression, which are tending every 
moment to betray them, and of the presence of which they are 
much oflener conscious than is generally apprehended or be- 
lieved. Alexander Cruden, when suffering imder his second 
and last attack of mental aberration, upon being asked whether 
he ever was mad, replied : " I am as mad now as I was for- 
merly, and as mad then as I am now, that is to say, not mad 
at any timer 

Again, medical men who have reasoned against this opinion 
have forgotten entirely one peculiar, and a very remarkable 
feature of insanity — ^viz., the singular cunning of lunatics ; 
how extremely difficult it is in many cases where we know the 
individual to be unquestionably mad, to make his delusion 
apparent The case of the lunatic who indicted Dr. Monro 
for confining him in his asylum has often been cited. He 
brought an action against the Doctor at Westminster ; and, 
although the man was subjected to a most severe examination 
and cross-examination, his insanity could not be detected. 
The trial was on the eve of being concluded, when Dr. Sims 
entered the court, and knowing the man's peculiar delusion, 
he was requested to ask him a question. He did so, and his 
insanity instantly became apparent He brought another action 
gainst Dr. Monro in the city of London, and, knowing that 
he had fidled before by acknowledging his love for an imaginary 
princess, so remarkable a degree of cunning did he exhibit 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 231 

that one of the severest examinations to which a man was 
ever subjected in a court of justice could not induce the 
lunatic to disclose the delusion under which he was known to 
labour. This curious feature of insanity must be taken into 
consideration in forming an estimate of the presence of de- 
rangement in cases of suicide^ and we must not hastily con- 
elude, because insanity is not self-evident^ that it does not exist 
A merchant, fifty-five years of age, of a strong constitu- 
tion, although of a lymphatic temperament, mild and gentle 
in his disposition, the &,ther of a numerous family, and who had 
acquired a considerable fortune in business, experienced some 
domestic troubles, not su£Sciently serious, however, to affect 
any one of a resolute character. About a year ago, he formed 
a lai^e establishment for one of his sons, and shortly after- 
wards became very active, and expressed, contrary to his 
usual habits, the delight which he felt at his increasing pros- 
perity. He was also more firequently absent firom his ware- 
house and business than usuaL But notwithstanding these 
trifling changes, neither his family, nor any of his firiends or 
neighbours, suspected any disorder of his reason. One day, 
whilst he was firom home, a travelling merchant brought to 
his house two pictures, and asked fifty louis for them, which 
he said was the. price agreed on by a very respectable gentle- 
man who had given his name and address. His son sent 
away both the pictures and the seller. On his return, the 
fitther did not mention his purchase ; but the children began 
the conversation, alluding to the roguery of the merchant, 
and their refiisal to pay him. The fether became very angry, 
asserting that the pictures were very beautifiil, that they were 
not dear, and that he was determined to purchase them. In 
the evening, the dispute became warmer, the patient flew into 
a passion, uttered threats, and at last became delirious. On 
the next day, he was confided to Esquirol's care. His chil- 
dren, fidghtened at their father's illness, and alarmed at the 
purchase which he had made, looked through their accounts ; 
and great was their astonishment at seeing the bad state of 



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232 18 THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

their booksy the numerous blanks ^^hich they presented, and 
the immense deficiency of cash. This irregularity had existed 
for more than six months. Had this discussion not taken 
place, one of the most honourable mercantile houses would 
have been compromised in a few days ; for a bill of exchange 
of a considerable amount had become due, and no means 
had been taken to provide for it 

A patient has been known to weep, and affect the deepest 
contrition for attempting suicide, when it has been proved 
that all the time he was meditating on the means of accom- 
plishing his design. A workman was admitted into a French 
hospital, having a third time attempted his life. He appeared 
deeply mortified and broken-hearted that he should have suf- 
fered a relapse, and was much affected by the remonstrances 
of his physician. He promised faithfully, in tears, to abandon 
his rash resolve. Ten minutes afterwards, whilst on his road 
home, he perceived a piece of cord ; he seized it, made a 
noose, put his head into it, and suspended himself fi*om the 
branch of a tree, where he was found dead I Cases illus- 
trative of the same fact are mentioned in another part of this 
work. 

Again, we must bear in mind that insanity is often as much 
a disease of the moral as of the intellectual faculties, and that 
it is possible for the intellect to be perfectly sound, and yet 
for insanity to be present. Moral derangement has not met 
with that consideration firom the profession which its im- 
portance demands. Insanity often consists in a vitiated con- 
dition of the moral principle, independently of any delusion 
of the intellect ; and in many cases of suicide, if we investi- 
gate their history, we shall find that the alienation has been of 
this character. A man, whose disposition naturally disposed 
him to vice, &ncied that he had been guilty of committing 
a nameless offence, and, whilst labouring under this idea, 
blew out his brains. In this case, the intellect was unafiected ; 
the derangement consisted in a perversion of the moral powers. 
Senile insanity, which has been recognised in our courts of 



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TUB RESULT OF INSANITY? 233 

law, is a derangement of the moral constitution. In cases of 
this description, it is possible for the person to be conscious 
of his infirmity, and to confess, with great apparent regret, 
his inability to control his feeUngs. " I am impotent, and not 
fit to live," said a man, and accordingly cut his throat If 
we admit the existence of an insanity which consists solely 
in a perversion of the moral powers, then we should hesitate 
in pronouncing ex cathedra that insanity is not present be- 
cause no derangement of the intellectual faculties can be per- 
ceived. 

Dr. T. Mayo observes, that ** no intellectual delusion need 
be present when self-destruction is coveted. But there must 
be an extinction of that moral sense which revolts from it 
on grounds independent of fear. Owing, however, to the 
systematic neglect of moral symptoms, the suicide is seldom 
recognised as possessing this destructive tendency until he has 
made an attempt upon his life ; often, therefore, until all mea- 
sures must be too late." 

A very common feature of moral mania is a deep perversion 
of the social affections, whereby the feelings of kindness and 
attachment that flow firom the relations of father, husband, and 
child, are replaced by a perpetual inclination to tease, worry, 
and embitter the existence of others. The ordinary scene of 
its manifestations is the patient's own domestic circle, the 
peace and happiness of which are effectually destroyed by the 
outbreakings of his ungovernable temper, and even by acts 
of brutal ferocity. Frederic William of Prussia, father of 
Frederic the Great, undoubtedly laboured under this form of 
moral mania; and it furnishes a satisfactory explanation of 
his brutal treatment of his son, and his utter disregard of the 
feelings or comfort of any other member of his family. About 
a dozen years before his death, his health gave way under his 
constant debauches in drunkenness ; he became hypochon- 
driacal, and redoubled his usual religious austerities. He 
forbade his family to talk of any subject but religion, read 
them daily sermons, and compelled them to sing, punishing 



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234 IS THE ACT OP 8UICIBE 

with the utmost severity any inattention to these exercises. 
The prince and his elder sister soon began to attract a pro- 
portionate share of his hostility. He obliged them to eat and 
drink unwholesome or nauseous articles, and would even spit 
in their dishes, addressing them only in the language of 
invective, and at times endeavouring to strike them with his 
crutch. About this time he attempted to strangle himself; 
and would have accomplished his design had not the queen 
come to his rescue. His brutality towards the prince arrived 
to such a pitch that he one morning seized him by the 
collar as he entered his bed-chamber, and began to beat 
him with a cane in the most cruel manner, till obliged 
to desist from pure exhaustion. On another occasion, shortly 
after, he seized his son by the hair, and threw him on the 
ground, beating him till he was tired, when he draped him 
to a window, apparently for the purpose of throwing him out. 
A servant hearing the cries of the prince, came to his assis- 
tance, and delivered him from his hands. Not satisfied with 
treating him in this barbarous manner, he connived at the 
prince's attempts to escape from his tyranny, in order that he 
might procure from a court-martial a sentence of death; and 
this even he was anxious to anticipate by endeavouring to 
run him through the body with his sword. Not succeeding 
in procuring his death by judicial proceedings, he kept him in 
confinement, and turned all his thoughts towards converting 
him to Christianity. At this time, we first find mention of 
any delusion connected with his son, though it probably 
existed before. In his correspondence with the chaplain to 
whom he had entrusted the charge of converting the prince, 
he speaks of him as one who had committed many and 
heinous sins against God and the king, as having a hardened 
heart, and being in the fangs of Satan. Even aft^r he became 
satisfied with the repentance of the prince, he shewed no dis- 
position to relax the severities of his confinement. He was 
kept in a miserable room, deprived of all the comforts and 
many of the necessaries of life, denied the use of pens, ink, and 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 235 

paper, and allowed scarcely food enough to prevent starvation. 
His treatment of the princess was no less barbarous. She 
was also confined, and every effort used to make her situation 
thoroughly wretched, and though, after a few years, he re- 
laxed his persecution of his children, the general tenour of his 
conduct towards his family and others evinced little improve- 
ment in his disorder, till the day of his death.* 

In considering this point it is important to remember that 
the attempt at self-destruction is often the first distinct avert 
act of insanity, A young lady of delicate constitution, but 
previously in apparent health, started up one day from the 
tea-table, rushed to the window, and endeavoured to throw 
herself out It required several persons to restrain her imtil 
a strait-waistcoat could be procured. She remained insane 
from that time until the day of her death, with very partial 
gUmmerings of reason. ** Fortunately," says Mr. Chevalier, 
who relates the case, *^ her life was not long protracted." 

It has been inferred, that when an unsuccessful act of 
suicide has been committed, and the person expresses his 
regret for what he has been guilty o^ that we are justified in 
concluding that the mind was sane when the suicide was 
attempted. The effort which Sir Samuel Romilly is said 
to have made to stop the hemorrhi^ afler having cut his 
throat, has been cited by a celebrated living authority as an 
evidence of his previous sanity.f We must bear in mind that 
many cases of suicide result from derangement of mind 
dependent on cere bral conges tion. 

In such cases, we can imagine a person insane when the 
act of self-destruction is attempted, and sane immediately 
afterwards. The loss of blood which a person would sustain 
from an extensive wound of the throat, particularly when, as 
is often the case, some large vessel is wounded, would instantly 
relieve the brain of the superabundant blood which had been 
oppressing it, and deranging its manifestations, and thus 

* Vide Lord Dover's Life of Frederick, and Ray on Med. Juris, 
f Dr. J. Johnson. 



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236 IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

producing a return of sanity. That this was the fact in Sir 
Samuel Romilly's case is evident from its history. There 
cannot be a shadow of doubt that he was insane when he cut 
his throat ; and his apparent desire to live after the act was 
committed, may be attributed to the relief which he had 
derived from the loss of blood. 

Mr. T. Miller, of Spalding, in a fit of delirium, cut his 
throat so dreadfully that after languishing three days, he died, 
lie manifested during this interval the utmost contrition for 
his offence, declaring he knew not what he had done until he 
found the blood streaming fix>m his wound. He dictated his 
will, and talked rationally with his friends till his dissolution.* 

A merchant in the city, not many months back, met with 
some losses in business. His mind became affected to a certain 
extent; he felt a strong desire to kill himself; but being a 
man of education and enlarged capacity, he fought most reso- 
lutely against this inclination. He had been exposed during 
one day to the influence of circumstances which caused great 
mental depression. He said to his head-clerk, previously to 
his leaving his counting-house, that his head felt heavy and 
oppressed, and he had a presentiment that something would 
happen before the morning. The clerk suggested the pro- 
priety of his having medical advice, but he did not think 
proper to do so. In this state he went to bed. In the middle 
of the night he awoke in a state of extreme agitation ; no 
language could convey an adequate idea of his feelings, 
and suicide was the only act which held out the hope of 
relief. In this state he rose from his bed, called up the 
servants, and commanded them to run for the surgeon. A 
professional gentleman who lived close by was soon in at- 
tendance, and the moment he entered the room the patient 
exclaimed, " Bleed me, or I shall cut my throat !'* The opera- 
tion was instantly performed, and as the blood flowed from 
the vein the patient exclaimed, " Thank God ! I have been 

* Hill on Insanity. 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 237 

saved from committing self-murder." Every disposition to 
suicide was immediately removed. 

The following is an extract of a letter found in the pocket 
of Captain Aitkins, of the Pembroke Fusileers, who com- 
mitted suicide : — " As some inquiry may be instituted as to 
the cause of my death, I think it necessary to state that it was 
inflicted by my own hand, partly from pecuniary embarrass- 
ment, and partly from the effect of strong nervous malady , 
which has fixed itself on my spirits so as to render life in- 
supportable," In this case we have no hesitation in asserting, 
that if the brain could have been relieved of the unnatural 
weight which oppressed it, this poor man would not have 
stained his hand with his own blood. 

In many cases the delusion of the intellect is so self- 
evident that no one questions the existence of insanity. A 
respectable Scotch merchant, near Pimlico, conunitted suicide 
by cutting his throat He fancied the devil was in him ; he 
asserted he could feel him in his throat. On examining his 
room after his death, two wills were discovered, in one of 
which he desires his executors to employ a suigeon to open 
his body, that the devil might be found, secured, and de- 
stroyed ; and in this way, he says, he will be prevented from 
injuring any one else. 

Many other cases could be cited in which the act of suicide 
was clearly traceable to mental derangement, were it con- 
sidered necessary further to illustrate this point. Much evil 
has resulted from the opinions which the profession have en- 
tertained relative to the absence of insanity in cases of those 
who have exhibited a disposition to destroy themselves. In 
this matter, the principle which the great Edmund Burke 
applied to politics is equally applicable to medicine — " We 
had better be blamed for too anxious apprehension, than be 
ruined by too confident a security." 

It is a safe doctrine always to presume the presence of in- 
sanity in those who have exhibited a desire to commit suicide. 
A person who has once attempted to take away his life cannot 



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238 IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

be trusted, notwithstanding he manifest the usual evidences 
of a sane intellect It is astonishing to consider the ingenious 
tricks and stratagems to which a person whose mind is bent on 
self-destruction will have recourse in order to effect his purpose. 
We find recorded the case of a woman who was tried for her life, 
and who, in order that she might escape from the hands of the 
executioner, appUed a hundred leeches to her body, hoping to 
bleed to death. Another female exposed herself to a swarm 
of bees ; and we read of an apothecary who endeavoured to 
beat out his brains with his own pestle. 

A builder, who had been found fault with by his employer, 
became melancholy, and finally determined upon self-destruc- 
tion. He hurried to a steep part of the high road, where 
vehicles of all descriptions were compelled to put on the drag 
in the descent Here he waited until a heavily loaded wagon 
reached the spot, when he seized hold of one of the wheels 
that was not locked, and applying his body to the circumfer- 
ence, was instantly crushed. 

A woman cut her throat severely, but not fatally. Her 
firiends could not be prevailed on to believe that she was in- 
sane. She recovered, but shewed such evidences of that un- 
happy condition, through the whole progress of her cure, as 
were sufficiently unambiguous to every competent judge. She 
had speculated unsuccessfidly in the lottery, and it was in- 
sisted that the rash act was solely to be ascribed to her disap- 
pointment in this venture. Soon after her recovery, and when 
her afiairs had assumed a more comfortable train, she went up 
one day into her bed-room, and being thought to stay longer 
than was necessary, a person went to see after her, and found 
her sitting before a dressing-glass, with a basin under her chin, 
and a knife in her hand, cutting her throat again, as delibe- 
rately as a surgeon would have performed an operation. She 
recovered this time also, and afterwards made a third and 
successftd attempt. 

A maniac who was extremely turbulent, and had evinced 
a strong propensity to destroy himself, was confined, and 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 239 

everything taken from him which could be imagined in 
any way capable of being instrumental for such a purpose. 
He was remarked on one occasion to be unusually quiet, and 
on his keeper looking through an aperture in his apartment, 
he discovered him scooping out his eyes with a bit of broken 
china found by him in the mattress, which he had torn to 
pieces ; and with his &ce full in the glare of the sun, he had 
completely accomplished this horrid act before the door 
could be opened to secure him. 

A gentleman of some political consequence in France had 
an attack of apoplexy, from which he recovered by copious 
bloodletting. Some years afterwards, he had a fall from his 
horse, and was wounded severely in his head, the injury oc- 
casioning fever and delirium of some weeks' duration. After 
this accident, he evinced some marks of mental aberration. He 
threw up his post under government, and retired to his 
chateau in the country, for the purpose of concocting, as he 
said, a scheme for uniting the people of all nations. To pre- 
pare a suitable edifice for this philanthropic union, he began 
to pull down his chateau ; but being interrupted by his friends, 
he came to Paris, and one day jumped off the Pont-Neuf into 
the middle of the Seine. He swam manfiiUy, and reached 
the shore in safety. He was so proud of this exploit that he 
considered himself invulnerable, and began next day to run 
in the way of carriages or fiacres he met in the street, calling to 
the drivers that they need not mind him, as he could not be 
injured I He was seized and carried home, but in a day or 
two jumped out of the chamber window into the street He 
was then placed in M. Esquirol's establishment, and consi- 
dered as an incurable maniac. 

During the French revolution, a case of mania without 
delirium gave rise to an extraordinary scene at the Asylum 
de Bicetre. The mob, after the massacre of the prisons, 
broke like madmen into the above hospital, under pretence of 
emancipating certain victims of the old tyranny, whom it had 
endeavoured to confound with the maniacal residents of that 



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240 18 THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

bouse. They proceeded in arms from cell to cell, interro- 
gating the prisoners, and passing such of them as were mani- 
festly insane. A maniac, bound in chains, arrested their 
attention by the most bitter complaints which he preferred, 
with apparent justice and rationality. " Is it not shamefiil," 
said he, ^^ that I should be bound in chains, and confounded 
with madmen.*' He defied them to accuse him of any act of 
impropriety or extravagance. " It is an instance of the most 
flagrant injustice !" He conjured the strangers to put an end 
to such oppression, and to become his liberators. His com- 
plaints excited amongst the armed mob loud murmurs and 
imprecations against the governor of the hospital. They im- 
mediately sent for that gentleman, and, with their sabres at 
his breast, demanded an explanation of his conduct. When 
he attempted to justify himself, they imposed silence upon 
him. To no purpose did he adduce, from his own expe- 
rience, similar instances of maniacs who were free from de- 
lirium, but at the same time extremely dangerous from their 
outrageous passions. They answered him only with abuse ; 
and had it not been for the courage of his wife, who pro- 
tected him with her own person, he would have been sacri- 
ficed to their fury. They commanded him to release the 
maniac, whom they led in triumph with reiterated shouts 
of " Vive la Republique I" The sight of so many armed men, 
their loud and confused shouts, and their faces flushed with 
wine, roused the madman's fury. He seized with a vigorous 
grasp the sabre of his next neighbour, brandished it about 
with great violence, and wounded several of his liberators. 
Had he not been promptly mastered, he would soon have 
made them repent their ill-timed humanity. The savage mob 
then thought proper to lead him back to his cell, and, with 
shame and reluctance, yielded to the voice of justice and ex- 
perience. 

Many modem and ancient cases of suicide have been referred 
to in support of the opinion that insanity is not necessarily pre- 
sent under such circumstances. The conclusions drawn fi*om the 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 241 

History of ancient cases, such as Cato, Cleopatra, Cassiiis, &c., 
cannot fairly be made use of in the present inquiry ; and yet 
if we examine these instances, which have been so triumphantly 
brought forward as incontrovertible proofs that it is possible 
for a person with a mind perfectly unclouded and free from 
even the semblance of aberration to commit suicide, we 
shall discover that they are not such good illustrations in sup- 
port of the doctrines which they who cite them are anxious 
to uphold. 

The suicide of Cato has often been referred to, and is con- 
sidered a most apt and conclusive instance in point. We 
admit this case is one of great importance, inasmuch as it has 
been held up as an example to others of a man who sacrificed 
his own. life to promote the interests of his country. How 
many have been induced to plunge recklessly into another 
world in imitation of the conduct of the Roman hero I 

Was Cato perfectly sane when he sacrificed his life ? We 
are disposed to think not. His whole conduct immediately 
preceding the last fatal act of his life evinces the extreme 
mental agitation under which he laboured ; despair had taken 
possession of his faculties; the ambition and the hopes of 
years were prostrated in a moment to the dust, and to escape 
from a long life of tyranny, he perished on his own sword. 

Many modem cases have been cited as evidence of the 
coolness and collectedness which many have exhibited in the 
act of suicide. The Rev. Mr. Colton, the accomplished author 
of " Lacon," is said to have been sane when he committed self- 
destruction. He shot himself with a pistol after having written 
the following apophthegm : " When life is unbearable, death is 
desirable, and suicide justifiable." The last few weeks of 
Colton's life were embittered by acute mental and physical 
suffering. He was involved in great pecuniary difficulties, 
and was dependent for the necessaries of life on the charity of 
his friends. Independently of this, he laboured under a very 
painful disease, and it was when exposed to this combination 
of misery that he committed suicide. His^ biographer states 



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242 IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

that there was no doubt of Colton's insanity at the time of his 
death; it was evident to all who were about him. The 
evidence in Sir Samuel Romilly's case is as strongly corrobo- 
rative of his derangement as in that of poor Colton's. At the 
time, he was suffering from the loss of a wife to whom he was 
most dotingly attached, and the cerebral derangement was so 
apparent that his physician ordered him to be cupped in the 
nape of the neck a short period previously to his killing 
himsel£ Lord Castlereagh's insanity was also clearly mani- 
fested. His whole conduct on the day he cut his throat led 
irresistibly to the conclusion that he was not in his right senses. 
His strange manner was noticed some time previously in the 
House of Commons. The Duke of Wellington saw the neces- 
sity of medical advice, and had a physician sent to him; in fact, 
the evidence was as strong as evidence could be, and no one 
at the time questioned the correctness of the verdict There 
were many peculiar circumstances connected with his lordship's 
early history which ought to be borne in mind before we con- 
clude that he was of sane mind at the moment of his suicide. 
It is now more than thirty-five years ago that the following 
singular circumstance occurred to the Marquis of Londonderry: 
He was on a visit to a gentleman in the north of Ireland. 
The mansion was such a one as spectres are fabled to inhabit. 
The apartment, also, which was appropriated to his lordship 
was calculated to foster such a tone of feeling from its antique 
character ; from the dark and richly carved panels of its 
wainscot ; from its yawning chimney, looking like the entrance 
to a tomb ; from the portraits of grim men and women arrayed 
in orderly procession along the walls, and scowling a con- 
temptuous enmity against the degenerate invader of their 
gloomy bowers and venerable halls ; and from the vast, dusky, 
ponderous, and complicated draperies that concealed the win- 
dows, and hung with the gloomy grandeur of funeral trap- 
pings about the hearse-like piece of furniture that was 
destined for his bed. Lord Londonderry examined his 
chamber; he made himself acquainted with the forms and 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 243 

fiices of the ancient possessors of the mansion as they sat 
upright in their ebony frames to receive his salutation ; and 
then, after dismissing his valet, he retired to bed. His candle 
had not long been extinguished when he perceived a light 
gleaming on the draperies of the lofty canopy over his head. 
Conscious that there was no fire in his grate ; that the cur- 
tains were closed; that the chamber had been in perfect 
darkness but a few minutes previously, he supposed that some 
intruder must have entered into his apartment ; and, turning 
round hastily to the side from whence the light proceeded, he, 
to his infinite astonishment, saw not the form of any human 
visitor, but the figure of a fair boy surrounded by a halo of 
glory. The spirit stood at some distance fix)m his bed. Certain 
that his own &culties were not deceiving him, but suspecting 
he might be imposed on by the ingenuity of some of the 
numerous guests who were then inmates of the castle. Lord 
Londonderry advanced towards the figure ; it retreated before 
him ; as he advanced, the apparition retired, until it entered 
the gloomy arch of the capacious chimney, and then sunk 
into the earth. Lord Londonderry returned to his bed, but 
not to rest ; his mind was harassed by the consideration of 
the extraordinary event which had occurred to him. Was it 
real, or the effect of an excited imagination ? The mystery 
was not so easily solved. 

He resolved in the morning to make no allusion to what 
had occurred the previous night, until he had watched care- 
fiiUy the faces of all the family, to discover whether any 
deception had been practised. When the guests assembled at 
break&st, his lordship searched in vain for those latent smiles, 
those conscious looks, that silent communication between 
parties, by which the authors and abettors of such domestic 
conspiracies are generally betrayed. Everything apparently 
proceeded in its ordinary course ; the conversation was ani- 
mated and uninterrupted, and no indication was given that 
any one present had been engaged in the trick. At last, the 
hero of the tale found himself compelled to narrate the sin- 

r2 



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244 18 THE ACT OF SUICIDE 

gular event of the preceding night He related every parti- 
cular connected with the appearance of the spectre. It 
excited much interest among the auditors, and various were 
the explanations offered. At last, the gentleman who owned 
the castle interrupted the various surmises by observing that 
" the circumstance which had just been recounted must 
naturally appear very extraordinary to those who have not 
been inmates long at the castle, and are not conversant with 
the legends of his family ;" then, turning to Lord Londonderry, 
he said, " You have seen the Radiant Boy, Be content ; it is 
an omen of prosperous fortunes. I would rather that this sub- 
ject should not agidn be mentioned.*' * 
The case of Chatterton — 

" The marvellous boy, 
The sleepless soul that perish'd in his pride" — 

has been adduced ; but nd one acquainted with the history 
of this unfortunate youth would doubt for one moment that 
he was insane. Chatterton possessed naturally acute sen- 
sibilities; he was unquestionably a man of genius. When 
the forgery of Rowley's poems was detected, his mind re- 
ceived a severe shock ; friend after friend forsook him. All 
his bright and cheering hopes were levelled to the earth ; his 
character for integrity was gone ; the world, which had been 
so eager to court his society and friendship, turned its back 
upon him ; misfortunes followed in rapid succession, until he 
was frenzied by mental agony and physical suffering. At the 
time of his death he was in want of the common necessaries 
of life, realizing the affecting picture of the poet — 

** Homeless, near a thousand homes he stood, 
And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.'' 

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that poor 

* This was no doubt an hallucination of the senses. On another occasion, 
when in the House of Commons, Lord Castlereagh fancied he saw the same 
'* Radiant Boy/* Does not this fact establish that his lordship's senses were 
not always in a healthy condition ? It is possible that when impelled to suicide 
he laboured under some mental delusion. 



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THE RESULT OF INSANITY? 245 

Chatterton's mind should have been overthrown, and that he 
should have been led to commit suicide. A few days before 
his death, he wrote to his mother in these terms : — " I am 
about to quit for ever my ungrateful country. I shall ex- 
change it for the deserts of Afnca, where tigers are a thou- 
sand times more merciful than man." A very important fact 
connected with Chatterton's case ought to be borne in mind — 
viz., that insanity was in his family. 

We have entered at some length into the consideration of this 
question, because we felt it to be one of great importance. - 
In forming an estimate of the condition of a person's mind 
who has committed suicide, the coroner and jury should make 
particular inquiries idto the following points: — First, as to 
state of mind for some time prior to the act. In many, and 
in fact, in all cases, if proper evidence can be obtained, it will 
be discovered that the person has laboured under depression 
of spirits, either resulting from physical or mental causes. 
Inquiry should be instituted as to the presence of any disease 
of the stomach or liver which may have operated injuriously 
on the mind. In many cases it will be found that the suicide 
has received at some period of his life a blow on his head, 
giving rise to cerebral injury, which may remain latent for a 
great length of time, and suddenly manifest itself. Is insanity, 
particularly suicidal insanity, in the family ? What was the 
person's natural character? Was he liable to sudden biu^ts of 
passion? Had his mind been dwelling on the subject of 
suicide ? Was he monomaniacal, or remarkable for any pecu- 
liar eccentricity ? All these various but important questions 
should be carefully sifted, should the coroner entertain any 
doubts as to the presence of mental derangement in such 
cases. In another chapter we have considered the unjusti* 
fiableness of a jury ever returning a verdict of felo-de-se. 



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246 



CHAPTER XIL 



SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH MEDICAL 
JURISPRUDENCE. 



The importanoe of medical evidence — ^The qaestioos which medical men hare 
to oontider in these cases — Signs of death from strangulation — Singular 
positions in which the bodies of those who have committed suicide have 
been found — The particulars of the Prince de Conde's case — On the pos- 
sibility of voluntary strangulation — General Pichegru's singular case — 
The melancholy history of Marc Antonie Galas — How to discover whe- 
ther a person was dead before thrown into water — Singular cases — Admi- 
ral Caracciolo^Drowning in a bath — The points to keep in view in cases 
of suspicious death — Was Sellis murdered ? — Death fiom wounds — ^The 
case of the Earl of Essex. 

Medical men are frequently called upon in our courts of law 
to give evidence in cases where it is doubtful whether persons 
found dead were murdered or committed suicide. The ques- 
tions involved in these judicial inquiries are of great public 
importance, and it is the sacred duty of medical men, for the 
sake of their own characters, and for a much higher consider- 
ation — ^for the ends of justice, to make themselves thoroughly 
conversant with all the evidence which can be brought to bear 
in the elucidation of such important questions. Our criminal 
annals are replete with illustrations in which individuals ac- 
cused of the atrocious crime of murder have been saved from 
a dreadfril and ignominious death by medical evidence. Cases 
also are recorded in which death has been ascribed to suicide, 
but which after investigation have been proved to have been 



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MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 247 

effected by other hands. In doubtful cases of this de- 
scription, the evidence of the medical man is of the highest, 
importance ; without it, in the great majority of cases, justice 
would be defeated. 

In the cases of persons found hanging, two questions natu- 
rally suggest themselves to the mind : — 1. Whether the indivi- 
dual was suspended before or after deatL 2. Whether it was 
an act of suicide or murder. It is possible, and such cases 
have occurred, that a person may have been hanged up after 
having been murdered, or may have endeavoured to destroy 
himself by firearms, or by cutting his throat, and suspend him- 
self afterwards, not being able to effect his purpose in any other 
way. In the first case we might mistake murder for suicide ; 
and in the second, suicide for assassination. The following 
are the signs of death firom strangulation: — The countenance 
is livid and distorted ; the eyes protrude, and are often suf- 
ftised with blood ; the tongue projects and is wounded by the 
teeth. If the rope be placed below the cricoid cartilage, the 
tongue will protrude; but if it presses above the thyroid carti- 
lage, the tongue will not be seen in the position described. It 
was formerly the generally received opinion that persons who 
were hanged died of apoplexy ; but the experiments of Sir 
B. Brodie and other physiologists clearly prove that death is 
owing to suffocation. The livid or depressed circle which 
the rope is said to make round the neck is pronounced by 
M. Klein to be an uncertain sign; he saw fift:een cases of suicide 
in which it was not discovered. Remer, of Breslaw, who has 
recently directed his mind to the consideration of this impor- 
tant point, found, out of one hundred cases of persons who 
died fix)m strangulation, eighty-nine with sugillation on the 
neck in an evident manner. In addition to the signs men- 
tioned, others have been enumerated. The fingers are said to 
be found bent, the nails blue, hands nearly closed, with swell- 
ing of the chest, shoulders, arms, and hands. 

If the body be not suspended, but touches, more or less, the 
ground or floor, while the cord is not tight enough for the pur- 



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248 SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH 

pose of strangulation, and there be no manifestations of any 
. other means of death, there can hardly be room to doubt as to 
self-murder. It is true that the mere resting of the toes 
takes away but little of the character of suspension, but we 
may meet with stronger cases. A few years i^o, a man, aged 
seventy-five, destroyed himself at Castle Cary, in the mom- 
I'^gy by fixing a cord round his neck while sitting on the 
bed-side, and leaning forward till his purpose was accom- 
plished. His wife, who had for years been bedridden, and was 
therefore not likely to have been very fast asleep, was in the 
room during the transaction, and knew nothing of what was 
going on. A prisoner hung himself in a gaol by fastening the 
cord to one of the window-bars, and pushing himself away 
fi*om it with his arm. 

Persons have both wounded and hung themselves. This 
may be efiected by placing the cord in a wrong position, which 
would protract the person's sufierings, and compel him to strug- 
gle and make violent efibrts to kill himself. Ballard relates, 
that a young priest, having first cut his throat to a certain 
extent, hung himself with his robe.* In cases like these there 
can be little difiiculty in ascertaining the real cause of death. 

In a memoir published in a French joumal,t there are 
related several instances of self-destruction by hanging, where 
the bodies were found in the most extraordinary positions and 
attitudes. A man was discovered in a granary hanging by a cot- 
ton handkerchief made fast to a rope which stretched across ; 
the knees were bent, so that the legs formed a right angle back- 
wards; the feet were suspended on a heap of grain, over 
which the knees hung at a distance of a few inches. A pri- 
soner was found suspended in a vertical position, with his 
heels resting on a window-stool. An Englishman, a prisoner 
in Paris, hung himself in his cell, which was an apartment 
with an arched roof, and at the lower part of it was a grated 

* Notes to Meizger. 
t Annales de IJyg, pub. et de M€d. Leg, torn. v. p. 156. 



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MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 249 

window^ the highest part of which was not near the height of 
a man. Nevertheless^ he hung himself to this grating, and was 
found almost sitting down, with his legs stretched out before, 
and his hips within a foot and a half of the ground. Another 
case is related of a man whose attitude was similar to the case 
first described. He had suspended himself to a large iron 
pin driven into the wall to support the bed-curtains, and his 
feet, bent at a right angle, rested on the bed, while his knees 
approached it within a few inches. A female suspended her- 
self so low that, in order to accomplish her purpose, she was 
obliged to stretch out her legs, one before resting on the heel, 
the other behind resting on the toes. A female was found 
stretched at the foot of her bed, the legs, thighs, and left hip 
lying on the floor; the upper part of the body was raised, and 
suspended by a cord fixed to the neck, and fastened to the 
hospital bed. 

A patient in La Charite was found one morning hanging by 
the rope which was attached to the head of his bed. He had 
fastened this by a loop round his neck, but his body was so re- 
tained, that when discovered he was on his knees by the side 
of his bed. 

In 1832, at the west end of the town, a man was found 
hanging in his room, with his knees bent forwards and his feet 
resting upon the floor. He had evidently been dead for some 
time, since cadaverous rigidity had already commenced. The 
manner in which this man had committed suicide was as fol- 
lows : — He had made a slip knot with one end of his apron, 
(he was a working mechanic,) and having placed his neck in 
this, he threw the other end of the apron over the top of the 
door, and shutting the door behind him, he had succeeded in 
wedging it in firmly. At the same moment he had probably 
raised himself on tip-to^ and then allowed himself to fall ; in 
this way he died. The weight of his body had apparently 
sufliced to drag down a part of the apron, for it seemed as if 
it had been very much stretched. 

In October, 1833, a gentleman who was employed as an 



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250 SUICIDE IM CONNEXION WITH 

assistant in a respectable school in the neighbourhood of London, 
was discovered by some of his pupils, one morning, in a sitting 
posture, on a dark part of a staircase of the house. Upon exa- 
mining fiirther, it was ascertained that he was completely dead, 
and that he was suspended to the banisters by a cravat firmly tied 
round his neck. The deceased had evidently made two similar 
attempts at self-destruction before he succeeded, as part of a 
silk pocket-handkerchief and his braces were found suspended 
to other parts of the banisters. It seemed scarcely possible to 
those who discovered him that the deceased could really have 
accomplished suicide by hanging in such a situation, for his 
body was resting entirely on the stairs, and, making every 
allowance for the slipping of the ligature by which he was 
suspended, still his feet must have been throughout in con- 
tact with the stair. 

There have been few medico-legal investigations of late 
years which have excited greater interest than the case of the 
Duke de Bourbon, in France. 

On the 27th August, 1830, the duke was found suspended 
in his bed-room, in the chateau of St Leu. An inquest was 
held the same morning on the body, and from the evidence of 
the witnesses, as well as from the reports of the physicians and 
surgeons who examined it, a verdict was returned to the 
effect that the duke had committed suicide in a fit of tem- 
porary insanity. This event did not excite much notice until 
the contents of his will were made public. 

The deceased, it appears, had made his will in favour of the 
Baroness de Feucheres, a female who had lived with him for 
some years, bequeathing to her the whole of his immense estates, 
and leaving the Duke d'Aumale, the youngest son of the king 
of the French, residuary legatee. The Princes de Rohan, heirs 
by collateral descent to the deceased; thus finding themselves 
deprived of an expected inheritance, attempted to set aside the 
will, alleging that undue influence had been exercised over 
him. The cause came on for hearing before the First Cham- 
ber of the Civil Tribunal of Paris, in December, 1831, and 



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MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 261 

excited considerable attentioD, not so much in consequence of 
the dispute concerning the validity of the will, as of the ques* 
tion which was raised during the trial, — whether the duke had 
committed suicide, or whether he had been murdered, and 
afterwards suspended, in order to defeat the ends of justice. 

The facts of the case, collected from the proces verbaux^ 
are as follows : — The deceased had naturally partaken of the 
alarm which had diffiised itself throughout France in conse- 
quence of the events of the revolution of 1830. Some of his 
most intimate friends declared that, for some time previously 
to his death, his mind had been filled with the most gloomy 
forebodings as to what this new order of things would bring 
about On the morning of the 27th, his servant went, as 
usual, to his bedroom door about eight o'clock ; but receiving 
no answer on knocking, he became alarmed, Madame de 
Feucheres then accompanied the valet to the door of the 
room, which was fastened on the inside ; and receiving no 
reply after calling to the duke in a loud voice, she ordered it 
to be broken open. On entering the apartment, the body of 
the deceased was found suspended from the fastening at the 
top of the window-sash by means of a linen handkerchief, 
attached to another which completely encircled the neck. 
The head was inclined a little to the chest ; the tongue pro- 
truded from the mouth ; the face was discoloured ; a mucous 
dischaige issued fix)m the mouth and nostrils ; the arms hung 
down ; the fists were clenched. The extremities of both feet 
touched the carpet of the room, the point of suspension being 
about six feet and a half from the floor ; the heels were ele- 
vated, and the knees half bent The deceased was partly 
undressed ; the legs were uncovered, and had some marks of 
injury on them. Among other points of circumstantial evi- 
dence, it was remarked that a chair stood near the window to 
which the deceased was suspended, and the bed looked as if 
it had been lain on. 

The medical witnesses, who examined the body soon after 
its discovery, stated that they found it cold, and the extremi- 



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252 SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH 

ties rigid, from which they inferred that the deceased had 
been dead eight or ten hours. This would have fixed the 
time of his death at midnight of August 26th. The bodj 
underwent a second examination, a report of which was fur- 
nished to the l^al authorities, on the following day. Five 
medical men were present at the inspection ; and they gave it 
as their opinion, from the post mortem appearances — 1st, that 
the deceased had died by hanging ; and, 2ndly, fit>m the ab- 
sence of all marks of violence or resistance about the person 
or clothes of the deceased, and other facts, that he had des- 
troyed himself. They considered that the contusion on one 
arm, and the excoriations observed on both legs, must have 
arisen fix)m the rubbing of these parts against the projecting 
rail of the chair near the window. The mark on the neck of 
the deceased they described to be large, oblique, and extend- 
ing upwards to the mastoid process. 

General evidence was given to shew that the duke had me- 
ditated self-destruction, and had conversed about it with some 
of the witnesses. On the morning of the 28 th, some frag- 
ments of paper, which had been vmtten on, were taken from 
the grate of his chamber ; these were carefully put together 
by one of the legal inspectors ; and among a few disjointed 
sentences, indicating despair and a dread of impending 
danger, were the following : — ** It is only left for me to die 
in wishing prosperity to the French people and my country. 
Adieu for ever I" Here followed his signature, and a request 
to be interred at Vincennes, near the body of his son, the 
Duke d'Enghien. It is necessary to observe, that no noise or 
disturbance was heard in the bedroom on the night of the 
deceased's death. 

On the other side it was contended that the duke was not 
unusually melancholy before his death ; that the supposition 
of suicide was inadmissible in a moral point of view, and 
indeed was physically impossible, from the circumstances. 
One person argued that he could not have made the knots 
seen in the handkerchiefs ; another, that he could not have 



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MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 253 

reached so high above his head to have suspended himself, 
and that the chair could not have been used in any manner 
to assist him ; while a third affirmed, that a person might be 
suspended in the position in which the body was discovered, 
vdthout death ensuing. The circumstance of the door being 
fastened on the inside, was accounted for by supposing that 
the bolt had been pushed to from the outside. The duke had 
been heard to condemn suicide ; he had made an appoint- 
ment for the following day ; and had attended to many little 
circumstances, such as winding up his watch the night pre- 
viously, and noting his losses at play; — facts which were 
forcibly urged as being opposed to the supposition of his 
having destroyed himself. 

To combat the medical evidence, it was assumed that the 
deceased was strangled or suffocated, and was afterwards 
hanged, by assassins. Several schemes were devised by the 
medical witnesses on this side of the question, to account for 
the manner in which the supposed murder was committed. 
According to some, a handkerchief might have been tightened 
round the deceased's neck by one assassin, while another for- 
cibly held his legs under the bed-clothes, by which the lesions 
already described would have been produced ; or instead of 
being strangled by a handkerchief, he might have been suffo- 
cated by a pillow placed over his mouth. 

The body might then have been dragged across the room 
to be suspended ; and if during this time the hand of one of 
the assassins had been rudely thrust between the cravat and 
the neck, the excoriation and mark seen on the skin might be 
easily accounted for. 

The counsel for the appellants remarked, that the want of 
a line in writing, to withdraw from all suspicion his attend- 
ants, and even Madame de Feuchferes, was remarkable, as 
this latter precaution had suggested itself to almost every sui- 
cide. He condemned those engaged in the anatomical exa- 
mination of the body, as having been guilty of culpable 
mismanagement. He ridiculed the idea that the duke, as 



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254 SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH 

reported by the two physicians consulted, had probably come 
to his death through asphyxia by strangulation. He con- 
tended that all the appearances on the skin of the neck, 
where no ecchymosis, as is usual in persons hung alive^ was 
visible, shewed that death had preceded the hanging of the 
hody.^ 

Conflicting as the evidence was in this case, we think no 
impartial mind, after maturely considering all the physical 
facts and moral circumstances connected with the Prince de 
Conde's death, can entertain any other opinion than that he 
sacrificed his own life. The case is one of great interest ; 
and the minute particulars detailed in the French journal are 
worthy of the perusal of every medical man. 

It has been doubted whellier voluntary strangulation was 
possible, but we have too many cases on record to allow us 
to question the probability of such an occurrence. An indi- 
vidual was found strangled in a hay-loft by a handkerchief 
which had been tightened by a stick. A Malay, who, on 
board of a man-of-war in the East Indies, had made repeated 
attempts to commit suicide, at last efiected his purpose in the 
following manner : — He tied a handkerchief round his neck, 
and with a small stick twisted it several times, and then se- 
cured it behind his ear, to prevent its untwisting. Jealousy 
was the cause assigned for the suicide. 

General Pichegru was found strangled in prison during the 
consulate of Buonaparte. The case gave rise to various sus- 
picions. The body was found lying in bed on the left side, 
in an easy attitude, with the knees bent, and the arms lying 
down by the side, with a black silk handkerchief twisted 
tightly round the neck, by means of a stick passed under it. 
The cheek was torn by the ends of the stick in its rotations. 
It was established that he had been guilty of suicide. 



* We have availed ourselves of Dr. Taylor's translation of the particulars 
of the prince's death, which are recorded with much minuteness in the *' An- 
nales d'llygiene Publique, et de M^decine Legale.** 



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MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 255 

A very important lesson is to be learned from the history 
of the following case, which Dr. Beck has published in his 
" Medical Jurisprudence.'* This is but one of many cases in 
which the innocent have been accused, and have suffered for 
crimes of which it has been subsequently proved they were 
innocent 

Marc Antoine Galas was the son of John Galas, a mer- 
chant of Toulouse, aged seventy years, of great probity, 
and a Protestant He was twenty-eight years of age, of 
a robust habit, but melancholy turn of mind. He was a 
student of law, and becoming irritated at the difSculties he 
experienced (in consequence of not being a Gatholic) con- 
cerning his licence, he resolved to hang himself. This he 
executed by fastening the cord to a billet of wood placed on 
the folding doors which led from his father's shop to his store- 
room. Two hours after, he was found lifeless. The parents 
unfortunately removed the cord from the body, and never 
exhibited it to shew in what manner his death was accom- 
plished. No examination was made. The people, stimulated 
by religious prejudice, carried the body to the town-house, 
where it was the next day examined by two medical men, 
who, without viewing the cord, or the place where the death 
had been consummated, declared that he had. been strangled. 
On the strength of this, the father was condemned by the 
parliament of Toulouse, in 1761, to be broken on the wheel. 
He expired with protestations to Heaven of his innocence. 

Reflection, however, returned when it was too late. It was 
recollected that the son had been of a melancholy turn of 
mind ; that no noise had been heard in the house while the 
deed was doing ; that his clothes were not in the least ruifled ; 
that a single mark only was found from the cord, and which 
indicated suspension by suicide ; and in addition to these, 
that the dress proper for the dead was found lying on the 
counter. Voltaire espoused the cause of the injured family, 
and attracted the eyes of all Europe to this judicial murder. 
The cause was carried up to the council of state, who, on the 



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256 SUICIDE IN CONNKXION WITH 

19th May, 1765, reversed the decree of parliament, and vin- 
dicated the memory of John Galas.* 

Many cases occur in which it is impossible to decide 
whether the person was dead before being thrown into the 
water. The attention of the jurist ought to be directed to 
the condition of the ground in the neighbourhood of the 
pond, to ascertain whether any signs exist of a struggle 
having taken place. In the case of Mr. Taylor, who was 
murdered at Homsey, in December, 1818, marks of footsteps, 
deep in the ground, were discovered near the New River ; 
and on taking out the body, the hands were found clenched^ 
and contained grasSy which he had torn from the bank. The 
appearance of wounds on the body will often lead to, or assist 
in, the formation of a correct opinion, as to the cause of 
death. These facts are, however, very often fallacious. 
Instances have occurred in which persons determined upon 
suicide have endeavoured to kill themselves with sharp in- 
struments, and not effecting their purpose, have subsequently 
thrown themselves into the water. Again, persons may, in 
the act of drowning themselves, receive severe injuries, by 
being propelled against rocks and stakes by the force of the 
current 

A few years ago, a man, who had leaped from each of the 
three bridges with impunity, undertook to repeat the exploit 
for a wager. Having jumped from London Bridge, he sunk 
and was drowned. When the body was discovered, it ap- 
peared that both his arms were dislocated, in consequence of 
having descended with them in an horizontal instead of a per- 
pendicular position. Persons have been discovered drowned 
with ligatures on their hands and feet, and the circumstance 
has naturally excited a suspicion as to whether they had 
committed suicide or had been murdered. Numerous cases 



* Foder^, vol. iii. p. 167 ; from the Causes C^lebres. See also Grimm's 
Historical and Literary Memoirs, (from 1753 to 1769,) vol. ii. pp. 41, 117, 
and 166. 



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MEDICAL JUBISPRUDENCE. 257 

prove that suicides do, occasionally, adopt such precautions, 
in order to ensure death. In June, 1816, the body of a 
gai^ing-instrument maker, who had been missing for some 
days from his home, was discovered floating down the Thames. 
On being taken out of the water, the wrists toere found tied 
toff ether and made fast to his knees, which were in like manner 
secured to each other. He had been deranged for two years. 
The cord was recognised as one which had been attached to 
his bed. He could swim well, and it was presumed that he 
had so tied himself in order to prevent his using his legs and 
arms should his courage fail him after having plunged into 
the water. 

A man, with his wife and child, was reduced to great 
distress. On a certain day, he took an affectionate leave of 
his fiimily, declaring he would not return until he had procured 
some employment by which he should be able to buy bread 
for them. On the following day, he was found drowned in 
the New River, with his hands and legs tied. A card with 
his address was found in his pocket. 

A gentleman was found in the Seine, at Paris, having his 
feet, wrists, and neck, tied with a cord. His neck, limb^ 
and hands, were bound by means of a rope with slip-knots, in 
order to put it out of his power to aid himself when in the 
water, and thereby to render certain the execution of his 
suicide. 

In the year 1832, the body of Elizabeth Martin was found 
dead in the water. A man of the name of Bayley was accused 
of the murder. They had been quarrelling, and were seen 
struggling with each other at the banks of the pond. He 
declared that she had fallen in accidentally. Her face was 
found turned downwards towards the bottom of the pond, 
and one of her hands wa^ found to he in her pocket. The judge 
properly observed, that if the woman had fidlen into the 
water as the prisoner stated, that she would have, undoubt- 
edly, taken her hand fix>m her pocket for the purpose of 



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258 SUICIDE m connexion with 

extricating heniel£ The man was convicted of the muider, 
and executed 

There has been much discussion as to whether bodies sink 
or swim when thrown into the water after having been killed* 
Considerable discrepancy of opinion exists on this point. It 
has been maintained that strangled persons will float more 
readily than others, as many fiK^ts prove. Caracciolo, Admiral 
of the Neapolitan navy, was hanged by sentence of a court- 
martial. The body was committed to the deep in the usual 
manner; and thirteen days afterwards^ while the king was 
walking on the deck of Lord Nelson's ship, he suddenly ex- 
claimed, with a yell of horror — " Viene ! viene ! " The admiral's 
corpse, breast-high, was seen floating towards the ship. The 
shot which had been attached to the feet for the purpose of 
sinking not being sufficiently heavy. This phenomenon 
may have arisen firom the evolution of gaseous matter, after 
the process of putreflsustion had commenced, which notoriously 
renders the body specifically lighter than water. 

The apparitions that appeared at Portnedown Bridge, after 
the Irish massacre, and which excited such commotion at the 
time, were accounted for in a (dmilar manner. It appears 
that, about twilight in the evening, a number of spirits became 
visible ; one assumed the shape of a naked woman, waist-high, 
upright in the water, with elevated and closed hands, and 
looking as awftd a spectre as the most superstitious person 
would wish to behold. Various sounds were also heard pro- 
ceeding fix>m the river, which caused no little alarm. The 
sounds were mere delusions, but that bodies were seen 
floating upright in the water there cannot be a doubt 

^^ One day," says Clarke, ^^ leaning out of the cabin-window, 
by the side of an officer, who was employed in fishing, the 
corpse of a man, newly sewed up in a hammock, started half 
out of the water, and continued its course with the current 
towards the shore. Nothing could be more horrible ; its head 
and shoulders were visible, turning first to one side, then to 



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MEDICAL JU&I8PRUDENCE. 259 

the other, with a solemn and awfiil movement, as if impressed 
with some dreadfiil secret of the deep, which jfrom its watery 
grave it came upwards to reveal Such sights became afters- 
wards frequent, hardly a day passing witjiout u^ering the 
dead to the contemplation of the living, until at length they 
passed without exciting much observation,* . 

In October, 1829, a female, who was aa in^tient of St 
Luke's Hoi^ital, was found dead in the bath of the Institution^ 
It appears that, for some time previously, she had been 
permitted the privileges allowed to patients exhibiting indir 
cations of convalescence, and had obtained access to the 
nurse's room, in which the key of die bath was deposited. 
One afternoon, she secretly possessed herself of this key, and 
then immediately proceeded to make arrangements for the 
accomplishment of her purpose. In order to deceive the 
vigilance of the nurse, who was accustomed to lock the 
patients up at bed-time, she took off her clothes and disposed 
them about the room, in the usual manner, as if she had 
undressed. She then made up a bundle to resemble the 
human figure, and placed it inside the bed, filling her night* 
cap with handkerchiefs. So accurate was the deception that 
the other patients, who slept in the room with the deceased^ 
readily answered that they were all present The lunatic, 
after these preparations, must have stolen cautiously down to 
the bath. She was found, the next morning, dead, lying 
stretched out with her face downwards. The water of the 
bath was not deep, and, indeed, it is presumed^ she must 
have forcibly maintained the position in which her body was 
found, in order to have effected her purpose. The door of 
the bath-room was locked inside, and the key was found in 
the deceased's pocket. 

In a small village of Wfiawickshire, in the year 1800, a 
young gentleman suddenly disappeared on the evening pre- 
vious to his intended marriage. Afl«r a lapse of some days, 

* Travels in Asia, Africa, &c. 
S 2 



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260 SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH 

his body was found floating in a mill-stream^ and it was 
generally concluded that he had committed suicide, though 
the cause for such a rash act could not be conjectured. Upon 
stripping the body, some marks of a suspicious nature were 
discovered upon the throat A surgeon was sent for to decide 
whether death had taken place from any other cause than 
drowning, who, after a minute examination, gave it as his 
opinion that he had died by strangulation. Suspicion now 
fell upon a man of bad character, who had been seen the night 
the gentleman was first missed, running in great haste fi*om 
the direction in which the body was afterwards found. He 
was apprehended, but, no evidence of guilt being elicited by 
the examination, was dischai]ged, and the fate of the unfor- 
tunate young man remained buried in mystery. Ten years 
afterwards, the person suspected was convicted of sheep- 
stealing, .and sentenced to transportation. While on board 
the hulks, he made a voluntary confession of having de- 
stroyed him, and declared that such was his remorse, and 
the horror of his conscience, that he earnestly desired to 
expiate his crime on the scaffold. He was tried for the 
alleged offence entirely on his own evidence, which was as 
follows : — 

Upon the evening of the fatal event, he was stealing 
potatoes from a field-garden belonging to the deceased, whom 
he imexpectedly saw coming over the gate to secure him, 
upon which he jumped over the hedge on the opposite side, 
and ran across the field to make his escape. The gentleman 
pursued him, and being an active young man, nearly overtook 
him ; upon which he (the prisoner) attempted to leap the mill- 
stream, but the.bank on the other side giving way, he fell back 
into the water. The young gentleman, instantly plunging 
into the water after him, strove to secure him. A desperate 
struggle now ensued, and the deceased had at one time got 
the prisoner down under him in the water, by which he was 
half drowned. At length he succeeded in overturning his 
antagonist, and, seizing him by the throat, held him fast in 



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MEDICAL JUfilSPRUDENCE. 261 

this manner under water, till he seemed to have no more 
power. He then left him, sprang out, and made his escape. 

The judge gave it as his opinion that the case amounted 
only to excusable homicide, and the man was acquitted. 

In forming an opinion as to the cause of death in doubtful 
cases of suicide, the following important points ought to be 
careftdlj kept in view : — 

1. If the person had for some time laboured under melan- 
cholia ; had met with losses, disappointments, or had suffered 
any acute chagrin.* 2nd If any of his family, associates, or 
connexions, had any interest in his death. 3rd. The season 
of the year should be taken into consideration ; for we have 
observed, without being able to assign the reason, that suicide 
is more frequent during the solstices and the equinoxes. 4th. 
If the patient, instead of complaining, remains quiet, seeks for 
solitude, and refuses medical aid. And 5th. If there be any 
writing (as those who destroy themselves ordinarily express 
their last opinions or will) it will be one of the most satisfac- 
tory proofs that they have made away with themselves. 
Remains of poison found in their pockets, or in the apart- 
ment, are but an equivocal proof, and one which may attend 
upon homicide as well as on suicide.f 

In the course of judicial investigations, medical men are 
frequently called upon to decide in cases of suspicious death 
whether wounds discovered on the bodies of the deceased 
were self-inflicted. Before deciding questions of this character, 
the medical witness ought to take into consideration the 
following points: — 1st, The situation of the wound; 2nd, its 
nature and extent ; 3rd, the direction of the wound ; and 4th, 
the moral circumstances connected with the case. 

Generally speaking, those who commit suicide do not 
wound themselves on the posterior parts of the body ; there- 
fore injuries detected in such situations naturally excite 

* To which may be added, anticipation of punishment, or disgrace from 
misconduct, 
t M^d. Legale, iv. § 948 ; and Smith on Med. Jurisprudence. 



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262 SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH 

suspicions as to the mode of death. The throat and chest 
are commonly selected when cutting instruments are used. 
When death has resulted from the discharge of a weapon 
introduced into the mouth. Dr. Smith says it may be taken 
for grranted that the case is one of suicide. It is, how- 
ever, possible, even under such circumstances, for a per- 
son to be assassinated in this way. When death has been 
caused by firearms, the fingers and hands of the deceased 
should be carefiiUy examined, in order to detect the presence of 
discoloration. In several instances, a murder has been dis- 
covered by a careful examination of the wadding. In two 
cases on record, the wadding being examined, it was dis- 
covered to have been torn fi^m paper found in the possession 
of the parties on whom suspicion had rested. 

Some time back, the body of a man was found lying on the 
high-road. The throat was severely cut, and he had evidently 
died fix)m hemorrhage. A bloody knife was discovered at 
some distance from the body; and this, together with the 
circumstance of the pockets of the deceased having been 
rifled, led to a suspicion of murder. This idea was confirmed 
when the wound was examined. It was cut, not as is usual 
in suicide, by carrying the instrument firom before back- 
wards, but as the throats of sheep are cut. The knife had 
passed in deeply under and below the ear, and had been 
brought out by a semi-circular sweep in front, all the great 
vessels of the neck, with the oesophagus and trachea, having 
been divided from behind forwards. The nature of the 
wound rendered it at once improbable that it could have 
been self-inflicted ; and it further served to detect the mur- 
derer, who was soon afterwards discovered, and executed. 

With reference to the extent of the wound, the celebrated 
Earl of Essex's case has often been quoted. He was found 
dead in the Tower, in 1683, and it was the generally received 
opinion that he had been murdered by persons hired by the 
Duke of York, afterwards King James XL Upon examining 
the wound, it was found that the jugular vessels, trachea, and 



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MEDICAL JUBISPBUDENCE. 263 

oesophagus, were cut throng to the very neck-bone. The 
verdict was suicide. In 1688, the matter was revived, and 
before a committee of the House of Lords,* it was proved that 
the razor with which the wound was inflicted was found on 
the kft side of the body, while it was known that the Earl 
was left-handed The edge of the razor was found notched; 
and it was also proved that the cravat worn by the deceased 
was cut through, and his right hand was wounded in five 
places. 

As there was much political feeling mixed up with this case, 
it was diflBicult to arrive at the truth. That many persons 
who have cut their throats have divided the neck to the 
vertebrae is a well-known fact. In the case of Mr. Calcraft, 
all the large vessels in the neck were divided, and the throat 
was cut through to the vertebral column. 

In the case of Sellis, much stress was laid by Sir E. 
Home on the wound being regular; he observes, ^' any struggle 
would have made it irregular^ Although there were points 
connected with this remarkable case which naturally tended 
to excite suspicion, we cannot but declare that the Duke of 
Cumberland most clearly vindicated himself from the foul 
charge which party feeling and private malevolence had 
endeavoured to establish against him. 

Many doubtfiil cases may be decided by taking into con- 
sideration the moral circumstances connected with them. A 
girl was discovered dead. Suspicion rested upon her mother, 
who had severely beaten the child. It was, however, clearly 
proved that the girl had been repeatedly heard to declare her 
intention to commit suicide. Persons should be examined as 
to the state of mind of the party found dead ; whether he or 

* The committee made no report Lord Delamere undertook to draw it up, 
but before he did so, parliament was prorogued. Bishop Burnet, who has 
given the particulars of the case with great minuteness, says, he had no doubt 
that the Earl of Essex committed suicide. He was subject to fits of deep 
melancholy, and maintained the lawfulness of suicide. This is also Hume's 
opinion. 



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264 SUICIDE AND MEDICAL JURIBPEUDENCE. 

she laboured under au hereditary predisposition to suicidal 
insanity^ or had been exposed to the influence of causes likely 
to cause melancholy or a depressed state of feeling. If all 
these points be carefully considered, a fair conclusion may be 
arrived at in the majority of cases that occur, and which are 
made the subject of judicial investigation. 



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26s 



CHAPTER XIIL 



STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 

Numl>er of suicides in the chief capitals of Europe from 1813 to 1831 — 
Statistics of death from violence in London from 1828 to 1832 — Number 
of suicides in London for a century and a half— Suicides in Westminster 
from 1812 to 1836— Suicide more frequent among men than women — 
Mode of committing — Influence of age— Effect of the married state — 
Infrmtile suicides — M. Guerry on suicides in France — Cases — Suicide 
and murder — Suicide in Geneva. 

In Great Britain^ owing to the neglect of statistical science, 
much difficulty has been experienced in obtaining anything 
like correct data respecting the number of suicides committed 
annually. For the details given in this chapter we are indebted 
to various authorities. Every work has been consulted which 
it was supposed would throw some light on the subject 

Number of Suicides in the chief Capitals of Europe. 



Places. 


Periods. 


Suicides. 


Proportion 
to Population. 


Berlin 


1813—1822 . 


360 . 


1 in 


750 


Copenhagen 


1804—1806 . 


100 . 


1 — 


1,000 


Naples.... 


1828 


330 . 


1 — 


1,100 


Hamburg.. 


1822 


59 . 


1 — 


1,800 


Berlin .... 


1799—1808 . 


60 . 


1 — 


2,300 


Paris .... 


1836 


341 . 


1 — 


2,700 


Milan «... 


1827 


37 . 


1 — 


3,200 


Berlin .... 


1788—1797 . 


35 . 


1 — 


4,500 


Vienna .... 


1829 


. 45 . 


1 — 


6,400 


Prague . . < . 


1820 


6 . 


1 — 


16,000 


Petersburg 


1831 


22 . 


1 — 


21,000 


London . . 


1834 


42 . 


1 — 


27,000 


Naples .... 


1826 


13 . 


1 — 


173,000 


Palermo .. 


1831 


2 . 


1 — 


180,000 



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266 



STATISTICS OF SXHCIDE. 



Statistics of Suicide Sf Deaths from Violence in general^ in London. 

1828. 1829. 1830. 1831. 1832. 



Suicide 


41 

1 


.. 3 


5 
6 




25 ., 
7 . 


48 
6 




52 


Executed 




2 


10 


Murdered 


6 






4 




2 . 


' 5 




2 


Poisoned 


7 






7 




4 . 


7 




4 


Found dead 


15 






6 




13 . 


5 




5 


Drowned 


150 




36 




. 97 . 


. 131 




149 


Burnt 


47 
1 




53 






61 . 
. 


35 
1 




36 


From famine 


1 


From intoxication. . 


7 






3 




4 . 







1 


From suffocation . . 


10 




. 10 




5 . 


5 ., 
miury and i 


5 


Number of Suicides in London during a d 


ahalf 


From 1690 to 1699 




236 


From 1760 tc 


i 1769 




351 


— 1700—1709 




278 




— 


1770- 


- 1779 




339 


— 1710—1719 




301 




— 


1780- 


-1789 




224 


— 1720 — 1729 




478 




— 


. 1790- 


-1799 




274 


— 1730 — 1739 




501 




— 


• 1800- 


-1809 




347 


— 1740 — 1749 




422 




— 


. 1810- 


-1819 




363 


— 1750 — 1759 




363 




-^ 


■ 1820- 


-1829 




381 



Suicides in Westminster y from 1812 to 1836. 

(Extract from Report of Medical Committee of the Statistical Society of 
London. April, 1837.) 

" The first statement to which the Committee will draw the 
attention of the Council is an account of the number of per- 
sons, male and female^ who have committed suicide^ and upon 
whom inquests have been held, within the city and liberty 
of Westminster, in each month, from January, 1812, to De- 
cember, 1836, procured from Mr. Higg, the deputy coroner 
of Westminster ; with other statements which the Committee 
had prepared fi-oin it 

" The Committee deems it right to premise that caution 
must be used in drawing too general inferences from these 
statements, on account of the comparatively small number of 
cases to which they refer. The average annual number of 
suicides upon which inquests have been held in Westminster 



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STATISTICS OF SUfCIDE. 



267 



does not probably exceed one per cent of the total number 
annoallj committed in Great Britain ; hence the number com- 
mitted in Westminster during twenty-five years, amounting to 
656^ is only about twenty-five per cent of the whole number 
annually committed in Great Britain. 

*^ For some conclusions, however, they aflPord sufficient data, 
and these the Committee will proceed to notice. 

*' It appears firom the following abstract. No. 1, that suicides 
in Westminster are most prevalent in the three months of 
June, July, and March ; but that the excess is on the part of 
the males, as the greatest number of female suicides was in 
January, September, and November. September, August, 
and October exhibit the smallest number of male and of total 
suicides ; but February, March, and April, the smallest number 
among females. 

No. 1. 

A Statement of the total number of Suicides of each Sex committed in West- 
minster in each month during the twenty-five years^ from 1812 to 1836 ; also 
the per centage proportion of the whole number committed in each month ; 
and the proportion which the number of each sex bears to the other. 



Total Number of Suicides 




Per Centage Proportion 


Per Cent. Proportion 


firom 1812 to 1816. 




committed in each Month. 


ofMale to Female. 


Male. 


Female. 


Total. 


Male. Female. 


Total. 


Male and Female. 


January . . 35 


. . 20 . . 


55 


7.3 .. 11.2 


.. 8.4 


64 . . 36 


February. 39 


.. 12 .. 


51 


8.2 .. 6.8 


.. 7.8 


77 .. 23 


March ... 52 


.. 11 .. 


63 


10.9 .. 6 2 


.. 9.6 


83 . . 17 


April 40 

May .... 41 


.. 11 .. 


51 


8.4 .. 6.2 


.. 7.8 


79 . . 21 


.. 15 .. 


56 


8.5 .. 8.4 


.. 8.5 


73 .. 27 


June .... 60 


.. 15 .. 


75 


12.6 .. 8.4 


..11.4 


80 .. 20 


July 50 


.. 16 .. 


66 


10.5 .. 9.0 


..10.1 


76 .. 24 


August. . . 30 


.. 15 .. 


45 


6.3 .. 8.4 


.. 6.9 


67 . . 38 


September 30 


.. 18 .. 


48 


6.3 .. 10.1 


.. 7.4 


62 . . 38 


October.. 28 


.. 15 .. 


43 


5.9 .. 8.4 


.. 6,5 


65 .. 35 


November 32 


.. 17 .. 


49 


6.7 .. 9.6 


.. 7.4 


65 .. 35 


December 41 


.. 13 .. 


54 


8.5 .. 7.3 


.. 8.2 


76 .. 24 


. Total . . 478 


178 


656 


100. 100. 


100. 


73 27 



" The last two columns in the above account shew more 
precisely the proportion of female to male suicides in each 
month. 



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268 



STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 



''The following statement shews the number of times, 
during the twenty-five years, that no suicide was committed 
during each month : — 

July Twice. 

M*>'---1 Three 
J times. 



February.. Not once, 
January .1 
March.. XOoce. 
June. ... J 



August , 
December 



April . . . 
October • 
September 
November 



times. 



; } Four 

* y Five times. 



'' From No. 2 it appears that the average annual number of 
suicides in Westminster has been increasing in each quin- 
quennial period ; but No. 3 shews that it has actually de- 
creased with reference to the increase which has taken place 
in the population. 

No. 2. 

A Statement of the Average Annual Number of Suicides^ Male and Femalet 
in each Quinquennial Period; aUoy the proportion per cent, which the twci 
Sexes bore to each other in each period. ^ 



Periods of Years. 


ATerace Annual Nomber. 


Proportion of each Sex. 


1812 to 1816 
1817 — 1821 
1822 — 1826 
1827 — 1831 
1832 — 1836 

Average of Total 


Male. 
18.2 
15.0 
16.4 
22.0 
24.0 


Female. 
7.6 
5.2 
7.4 
7.8 
7.9 


Total. 
25.8 
20.2 
23.8 
29.8 
31.6 


Male. 
70 
74 
69 
78 
76 


Female. 
30 
26 
31 
22 
24 


19.1 


74 


26.2 


73 


27 



No. 3. 

A Statement of the Population of the City and Liberty of Westminster ^ ac- 
cording to each census, and the proportion which the number of Suicides 
in the Quinquennial Period immediately following each census bore to the 
population. 



Dates of 
Census. 


PopQlation. 


Saicldes. 


Proportion of Suicides 
to tlie Population. 


1811 
1821 
1831 

Average 


160,801 
181,444 
201,604 


Qainqaennial Periods. 

1812 to 1816 
1822 — 1826 
1832 —1836 


Average 
Annaal Number. 

25.8 

23.8 

31.6 


One in 

6,232 
7,623 
6,379 


181,283 


•• 


27.06 


6,700 



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STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 



269 



^' It must^ however, be taken into consideration that suicides 
eommitted in Westminster may not belong to the population 
of the district, for that the proximity of the river, and other 
causes existing in Westminster, may attract persons residing 
in other parts of the town. Hence an increase or decrease of 
&cilities for committing suicide in the surrounding districts, 
such as the formation of a canal, &c., will naturally affect the 
number of such deaths in Westminster.* 

It has been clearly established that suicide is less frequent 
among women than men. In early life, death by hanging is 
preferred ; in middle life, firearms are had recourse to ; and[in 
more advanced years, strangulation again becomes the fashion- 
able mode of terminating life. 



Years of Age. 


Pistol. 


Haoging. 


Between 10 and 20t . . 


.. 61 


68 


— 28—30 .. 


.. 283 


51 


— 49—50 .. 


.. 182 


94 


— 60—70 .. 


.. 150 


188 


— 80—90 .. 


.. 161 


256 



* Th& is confirmed by the fact that within the jurisdiction of the metro* 
politan police, the two districts in which the greatest number of suicides were 
committed or attempted, in 1836 or 1837, were those of the Regent's Park 
and Stepney, through both of which the Regent's Canal runs. This circum- 
stance tends to shew that drowning is the mode of suicide most frequently 
resorted to in London, and that a canal offers greater facilities for that pur- 
pose than the river. 

f The disposition to suicide may be manifested very early in life. M. Fal- 
ret knew a boy« twelve years old, who hanged himself because he was only 
twelfth in his class. A similar case occurred at the Westminster school 
about seventeen years ago. Harriet Cooper, of Huden Hill, Rowly. Regis, 
aged ten years and two months, upon being reproved for a trifling fault, went 
upstairs, after exhibiting symptoms of grief by sighing and sobbing, and hung 
herself with a pair of cotton braces from the rail of a tent bed. A girl named 
Green, eleven years old, drowned herself in the New River^ from the fear of 
correction for a trifling fault. Dr. Schlegel states, on the authority of Casper, 
that in Berlin, between the years 1812 and 1821, no less than thurty-one chil- 
dren, of twelve years of age and under, committed suicide, either because 
they were tired of existence or had suffered some trifling chastisement. 



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270 STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 

In an analjsifl of 525 cases of suicide in Prussia, the follow- 
ing was the result : — 

Hanging 234 

Shooting 163 

Drowning 60 

Cutting throat 17 

Stabbing 20 

Jumping out of window . . . . 19 

Poison 10 

Opening artery 2 

525 

Marriage is to a certain extent a preventive of suicide ; it 
has been satisfactorily established that among the men two- 
thirds who destroy themselves are bachelors. 

In M. A. Guerry's able *' Essai sur la Statisque Morale de la 
France," published in 1833, we find some valuable statistical 
facts relating to suicide in France. 

It appears on evidence of the most authentic description, 
that, fiom the year 1827 to that of 1830, there were committed 
throughout France no less than 6900 suicides I that is to say, 
an average of nearly 1800 per annum I It should, however, 
be remembered, that this calculation is founded only upon 
judicial documents, in which are included merely those cases 
of suicide in which death has followed, or in which legal pro- 
ceedings were taken ; so that it is not improbable that many 
more attempts were made to perpetrate this crime of which 
the public is quite ignorant 

Taking up this fact, let. us consider that the number of 
crimes against the person amounts yearly in France to 1900. 
Now, it appears that more than 600 of these crimes consist of 
attempts on the lives of others ; so that the conclusion cannot 
be resisted, that every time an individual in France meets 
with a violent death, in any other way but by accident or 
mere homicide, there are three chances to one that he has 
committed suicide. 

M. Guerry makes a transition to the geographical position 



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STATISTICS OP SUICIDE. 271 

of this crime throughout the several arbitrary divisions, and 
he finds the state of the case to be as follows : — 

Out of every hundred suicides which take place on the 
average every year, there are committed in the 

Saicides. 

Northern division 51 

Southern — 11 

Eastern — 16 

Western — 13 

Central — 9 

Another view of the proportion of suicides in France is, 
that which takes place in the number of them, as compared 
with the amount of the population. It is as follows : — 

Stiicides in prcportion to Populatwn, 



Northern division 


. . 1 in 9,853 


Eastern — 


.. 1 in 21,734 


Central — 


. . 1 in 27,393 


Western — 


. . 1 in 30,499 


Southern — 


. . 1 in 30,876 



It is proper to bear in mind, that in the single department 
of the Seine, there are perpetrated every year nearly the sixth 
part of the whole number of suicides which take place in all 
the eightynsix departments of France. It is said, however, 
that the greater portion of those persons who commit suicide 
in this department are altogether strangers to the capital. 
We come, then, to this conclusion, that of the thousand in^ 
dividuals who are guilty of the crime of suicide, no less 
than five hundred and five take place in the department of 
the north ; one hundred and sixty-eight occur in the southern 
division ; sixty-five in the western; and fifty-two in the central ; 
a distribution which shews that there is, if not the same pro- 
portion, certainly the same order, as the distribution of suicides 
in the five divisions in respect of the amount of population. 

In the explanation which is appended to the table just 
alluded to, the author shews, that of the suicides committed 
in the department of the Seine, where they are most nume- 
rous,' there appears to be one suicide for every 3600 inha- 

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272 STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 

bitants; whilst in the department of the Haute Soire, where 
the crime is less frequent, this proportion does not amount to 
more than one in 163,000 inhabitants. 

A singularly curious inference is to be drawn from the consi- 
deration of the facts presented in another of M. Guerry's gra- 
phic illustrations — ^viz., that which arises from the circumstance, 
that from whatever confine of France an inquirer proceeds to 
die capital, he will find, as he approaches it, that the number 
of suicides increases by a regular gradation ; so that in those 
departments which are near the Seine and Maine, the traveller 
will discover that more suicides have been committed than in 
those more remote fit)m the metropolis, such as the depart- 
ments of the Lower Seine, of Aube and Soiret. The same 
observation applies as forcibly to. Marseilles, which is in some 
measure to be considered the capital of certain departments 
in the south of France. The more these districts are in the 
vicinity of Marseilles, the greater the amount is there of sui- 
cides as compared with the number of the population. 

A curious fact has been elicited in the e:2(amination of the 
French registers of crime, from which it appears that those 
divisions of the kingdom of France in which the most fii^quent 
attempts have been made to commit murder are those divi- 
sions exactly where the crime of suicide is most rare ; and it 
has been fiirther proved that precisely the reverse of this law 
takes place in other departments ; namely, that where suicides 
are numerous in proportion to the population, there the 
number of murders committed by individuals on others is 
considerably diminished. One peculiarity is mentioned by 
M. Guerry as being connected with cases of suicide, which 
is, that we are much oftener enlightened as to the cause of it 
than we are upon the motives of most other crimes, and that 
it is rarely the case that any person sets about the crime of 
self-destruction without leaving in writing, or in some other 
way, the expression of his last wishes, together with an expla- 
nation of the causes of the rash act, which he most generally 
seeks to justify. 

Holcroft, in speakixi«r of the number of suicides in Paris, 



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STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 273 

observes, "I am not well informed on the subject, but 
I doubt if as many suicides be committed through all 
Great Britain in a year^ as in Paris alone in a month. It 
is the practice of the French police to stifle inquiry and con- 
ceal facts, whenever they are of a disagreeable nature ; for 
they tax its omnipotence, to something little short of which it 
pretends : all things are under its protection ; its eye is every- 
where ; the assaulted cannot sink ; the culprit cannot escape ; 
its guardian arm is stretched out so effectually to save that 
none are in danger. Such are its high claims and the daily 
assertion it repeats ; they are the necessary results of despo- 
tism, which, ever on the alarm, will in everything interfere. 

" The Parisians are in general themselves so ignorant that the 
things which they see produce only a momentary impression ; 
none but men of superior minds collect facts and deduce 
consequences ; the rest discern with great quickness, but they 
forget with greater ; and it is chiefly from this forgetfulness 
that their gaiety of heart is derived. 

- *^ In England, misfortunes, so far from being concealed, are 
sought after with eagerness by people who are paid for the 
bad news they bring, and by whom it is sometimes greatly 
exaggerated. If the tale do not astonish, it is scarcely worthy 
to be reported in our newspapers, and the tales in these news- 
papers circulate through Europe. This is a benefit when 
truth is not falsified. 

" Of the suicides which are daily happening in France, 
I, who read the daily journals, saw only two noticed; and 
these I was surprised to see. One was an officer in the army 
who pistolled himself at the public office of the war minister; 
and the other a poor wretch who, at the moment before he 
threw himself from the upper story of one of the high houses 
in Paris, called out in mercy to the passengers. Garde Teau ! 
the phrase used by the Parisians when they throw water out 
of a window. I was told of another suicide of the same 
kind, and with the same humane caution, while I was at Paris. 

" I likewise saw the body of a man borne through the 



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274 STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 

Streets, who, after haying breakfasted at a hut in les Champs 
JElyseeSy put an end to his existence. Before doing so, he 
told the people that he had been a subaltern officer of a regi- 
ment then reduced ; and that all means of procuring a liveli- 
hood was lost. 

*' Nine conscripts who had for a time concealed themselves, 
but who were at last discovered, being determined not to serve, 
encouraged each other rather to die, and voluntarily ended 
life by drowning themselves together. 

'* I was passing le Pant des Tuileries after dark, and saw a 
man surrounded by other men. They had deterred him on the 
bridge ftom jumping over ; but they could not prevail on him 
to tell his name, or to go home. He appeared to be deter- 
mined in his purpose ; the only resource they had was, at last, 
to commit him to the guard ; but unless his state of mind 
could be altered, safety like this was but merely temporary. 

^* Another evening, on the same bridge, and about the same 
hour, a woman, standing near the centre parapet, attracted my 
attention by her look, and manner in which she seemed to be 
examining the river. I stopped; she desisted, but did not 
remove. I was uncertain what her intentions might be, and 
she appeared to shun notice. Two other passengers, guessing 
my doubts, halted ; but either their fears were not so strong as 
mine, or their patience was less ; they stood a few minutes 
and left. I felt as if I did not dare to go, yet could not 
decide how to act, fix)m the fear of doing wrong. At length 
the woman moved towards the end of the bridge, and I was 
obliged to leave her to her fate. I was not certain her inten- 
tions were ill ; to have charged her with such might deeply 
have insulted her. I walked home, however, in a most dis- 
satisfied state of mind ; at one minute, proving to myself I 
could not act otherwise, and at another, making self-accusations 
for. having deserted the duties of humanity. 

" The number of suicides that really happen in Paris must 
exceed, no man can say how much, those that are actually 
known. The bodies exposed at La Mor-ffue are most of them 



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STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 



276 



brought from St Cloud; the distance to which by water 
must be above three, perhaps four miles. At the bridge of 
St Clotid the fishermen nightly spread their nets; and in 
the morning, with the fish, these bodies are drawn up ; but 
as an old inhabitant of St Cloudy whom I strictly questioned 
on the subject, assured me the nets were only suffered to be 
down a stated number of hours, according to the season, cer- 
tainly not upon an average half a day ; and in proof of what 
he said, he observed to me that this regulation must take place, 
or the navigation of the river would be impeded. Hence, by 
the most moderate calculation, the number of bodies that 
escape the nets must at least equal the number of those that 
are caught 

** I was told that the government had lately refused the 
accustomed fee to the fishermen for each corpse they brought, 
and that they would not continue to drag up the dead bodies, 
affirming that the money they had before received was insuffi- 
cient to pay the damage their nets had sustained." 

The following statistical facts with reference to suicide in 
Geneva may be relied upon : — 

By the laws of the canton, each case of violent death is 
investigated by a police magistrate, and the documents are 
sent to the ** Procureur-Generale," and carefully preserved. 
M. Prevost has examined these documents, collected between 
1825 and 1834 inclusively, with a view to investigating the 
causes of suicide, and of diminishing them if possible. The 
following are the most important results : — 



1. — Affe. 



Ages. 
From 50 to 60 
20 to 30 
60 to 70 
30 to 40 
40 to 50 
70 to 80 
10 to 20 
80 to 90 



No. of Cases in 10 years 
. 34 . 
. 30 . 
. 19 . 
. 18 . 
. 15 . 

9 . 

5 . 

3 . 
T 2 



Men. 
25 
22 
10 
15 
13 

6 

3 

1 



Women. 

9 

8 

9 

3 

2 

3 

2 
. 2 



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276 STATISTICS OF SUICIDE* 

From this table it appears that suicides are most frequent 
between 50 and 60 years of age. The age when the passions 
are the strongest (from 20 to 30) is^ as might be expected, 
high in the scale ; that of youth and old age low, from the 
young being strangers to the cares of life, and the old few in 
number when compared with the population. 

2. — Sex, and State of Marriage or Celibacy. 

There are more suicides among^ men than women, in the 
proportion of 95 to 38, or about three to one; and more 
immarried than married, or in the state of widowhood, in the 
proportion of 70 to 63, or about seven to six. Notwithstand- 
ing this, the female suicides are more numerous among the 
married and widows than among the unmarried, in the pro- 
portion of 21 to 17. But among men the proportions are 
reversed, — that is, 42 to 53 ; so that, on the whole, suicides are 
more frequent among the unmarried than amongst those who 
are or have been married. This will not surprise those who 
know the energy, courage, and patience of women under 
misfortune; men more readily give way to despair, and to 
vices consequent upon it Men also have means of destruc- 
tion, as firearms, &c., more readily at hand. 

3. — Occupations. 

The number of suicides are in proportion to the number of the 
individuals engaged in various trades, except among the agri- 
cultural population, where the proportion is very small. Thus 
the agricultural population of the canton is 18,000, among whom, 
during ten years, there have been but ten suicides ; whereas, 
if they had been in the same proportion to the whole number 
as was found in other occupations, they would have amounted 
to thirty-nine. Constant occupation and hard yet healthy 
work render them less sensible to the cares of Ufe. There 
is also a somewhat larger proportion of suicides among the 
educated classes, who are engaged in literary pursuits or the 
higher branches of commerce. 



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STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 



277 



4. — Religion. 
The relative proportion of Protestants to Catholics in the 
canton of Geneva is, according to the census of 1834, as 77 
to 56. Thus— 



Of 133 inhabitants there are, 

Protestants .... 77 
Catholics 56 



Of 133 cases of suicide there are, 
Protestants .... 107 
Catholics 26 



133 133 

This result should attract the attention of those virho are inte- 
rested in the moral and religious education of Protestants. 

5. — Means of Destruction. 

Drowning 55 

Firearms 31 

Strangulation 18 

Voluntary &lls 15 

Cutting instruments . ... 7 

Poison 7 

133 

In a small province, vnth a lake and two rapid rivers, it is 
not surprising that drovirning should be the most frequent 
mode of suicide ; next to this is death by firearms, virhich is 
accounted for by all the men having firearms, as they are in 
the militia. Whilst the men have used firearms and cutting 
instruments, the v^omen have almost alone had recourse to 
poisons and voluntary falls. 

6. — Seasons. 

The seasons sensibly influence the number of suicides. 
There are more almost constantly in April. Of 133 suicides 
there v^ere in — 



April 19 

June 17 

August 17 

July 15 

October 14 

May 13 



March . . 
Noyember 
September 
January . 
February . 
December 



10 
9 
6 
5 
5 
3 



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278 



STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 



The spring appears to have an unfavourable effect; and 
during the great heats, there are more suicides than during 
the cold weather. It is curious that many suicides happened 
on the same day or week. Thus, on April 9th, 1830, there 
were two suicides, and' several others on the previous and 
subsequent days ; on the 20th of May, 1830, there were two 
suicides; on the 28th and 29th of March, 1831, two; and 
the same on the 3rd and 4th of July of the same year. On 
the 20th of April, 1833, there were two; and on the 5th of 
July, 1833, two others. Some atmospheric changes may 
account for this, though meteorological tables did not satis- 
factorily explain them. 



7. — Presumed Motives. 



Physical disease .... 34 

iDsanity ....... 24 

Losses of property . ... 19 

Domestic grief 15 

Melancholy without known 

cause 13 



Bad conduct. Drunkenness . 10 
Fear of punishment. Remorse 6 
Disappointment in love . . 6 

Gambling 4 

Mysterious 2 



8. — Relation of Suicides to Population and to Deaths. 

The number of suicides is to the whole number of deaths 
as 1 to 90^ ; and to the whole population as 1 to 3*985 ; the 
mean population of the canton during the last ten years 
being 53,000— 

ides. 



In 1825 








6 Suici( 


1826 








6 „ 


1827 








9 „ 


1828 , 








13 „ 


1829 








.13 „ 


1830 








16 „ 


1831 








. 18 „ 


1832 








. 12 „ 


1833 








. 24 „ 


1834 








16 „ 



133 



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STATISTICS OF SUICIDE. 279 

From this table it appears that the number of suicides has 
gradually increased from six as high as twenty-four in eight 
years. The last year, it decreased to sixteen ; and it is fer- 
vently hoped that this deduction may be maintained, and 
that the increase may not be so frightfully rapid as it appears 
to have been. It must, however, be taken into account, that 
the population was, in 1822, 51,113, and in 1834, 56,655. 
The poUce also are more active^ and inquests are held more 
regularly. 



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280 



CHAPTER XIV. 



APPEARANCES PRESENTED AFTER DEATH IN THOSE 
WHO HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE. 



Thickness of cranium — State of membranes and vessels of brain — Osseous 
excrescences— Appearances discoyered in one thousand three hundred and 
thirty-three cases — Lesions of the lungs, heart, stomach, and intestines — 
Effect of long-continued indigestion. 

As in cases of insanity, the morbid appearances discovered in 
the bodies of suicides are varied and contradictory. Nothing 
has yet been detected which can lead the pathologist to a cor- 
rect conclusion as to the nature of the organic change which 
precedes and accompanies the suicidal mania. 

The cranium has in many cases been found pretematurally 
thick, and in others the reverse. Greeding and Gall give their 
testimony in favour of the skull's thickness. Out of 216 exa- 
mined, a preternatural thickness of cranium was found in 167. 
Out of 100 who died of furious mania, 78 had the skull thick, 
and 20 very thin. Out of 30 fatuous patients, 21 had thick 
crania, and six thin. The thickness of the cranial bones in 
melancholy and maniacal patients, and in old people, was 
supposed by Dr. Gall to be connected with diminished size of 
the brain, to which the inner table of the cranial bone accom- 
modated itself; and together with this thickness, he considered 
there was also thickness of the membranes, and ossification of 
the blood-vessels. 



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APPEARANCES PRESENTED AFTER DEATH. 281 

MalfonnatioDS of the cranium are often detected. Osiander 
relates the case of an old man who had suffered for a con- 
siderable time from dreadful headache, and who, weary of 
life, hanged himself. On examining the head, small osseous 
excrescences were found near the carotid foramen. Lancisi 
refers to a case of hypochondriasis and suicide, in which, after 
death, a sharp long excrescence was found near the apex of 
the lambdoid suture. 

From an examination of the particulars of 1333 cases of 
persons who have committed suicide, and who have been exa- 
mined after death, the following analysis is made. The par- 
ticulars of the cases referred to are recorded in the works of 
Pinel, Esquirol, Falret, Foder6, Amtzenius, Schlegel, Bur- 
rows, Haslam, &c. 

Thickness of cranium 150 

No apparent structural change . . . 100 

Bony excrescences 50 

Tumours in brain . .... 10 

Simple congestion 300 

Disease of membranes . • . • 170 

Disease of lungs 100 

Softening of brain 100 

Appearances of inflammation in brain . . 90 

Disease of stomach 100 

Disease of intestines 50 

Disease of liver .' 80 

Suppressed natural secretions . . . .15 

Disease of heart 10 

Syphilitic disease 8 

1333 

Accretions of the membranes of the brain are often found in 
suicides. The dura mater is often ossified, and the pia mater 
inflamed, and the arachnoid thickened. Osiander considers 
congestion of the vessels of the brain a frequent cause of 
suicide. 

Auenbrugger refers to the case of a man who had suffered 
for a long duration severe headache, and who committed sui- 
cide. After death, a fissure was found in the middle of the 
pons varolii. 



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282 APPEARANCES PRESENTED AFTER DEATH. 

Lesions of the lungs are among the common morbid ap- 
pearances in the bodies of Imiatics. Esquirol states that one 
fourth of the melancholic die of consumption. 

The heart is sometimes found seriously disoi^ganized. The 
stomachy Hver, and intestines, are the most frequent seats of 
morbid phenomena in these cases. It is difficult, however^ to 
say whether they ought to be considered as the effect or cause 
of the suicidal disposition. In many cases of gastric disease^ 
the brain is also found organically affected. How is it possible 
for us to say which organ was primarily affected ? The sto- 
mach, intestines, and hver, may be originally the seat of the 
irritation, and the brain may be sympathetically deranged. 
This is often the case. Again, the patient may have laboured 
under a severe mental ailment, which may give rise to dis- 
ease of the splanchnic viscera. Severe and long-continued 
indigestion, from whatever cause it may originate, will, in 
certain dispositions, produce the suicidal mania. Very few 
cases are examined in which we are not able to detect some 
disease of the gastric oigan or its appendages. 

It is not our wish to throw discredit on, or to underrate the 
value of, morbid anatomy ; but, with reference to the peculiar 
branch of inquiry now under investigation, we must confess 
that very little practical importance can be attached to the 
structural lesions which the industry and scalpel of the anato- 
mists have enabled them to discover in the bodies of those 
who have committed suicide. The morbid appearances are so 
varied and capricious thai they cannot lead to a sound con- 
clusion as to the exact seat of the disease. In many cases, the 
brain is apparently free from structural derangement; and 
yet, reasoning physiologically, we must believe that in every 
case the sentient organ must be affected, either primarily or 
secondarily. There are many instances in which there can- 
not be a doubt but that the cerebral organ is the seat of the 
disease, but in which, after death, no vestige of the malady 
can be discovered ! 



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283 



CHAPTER XV. 
SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 



Introduction — Contempt of death — Eustace Budgel — M. de Boissy and his 
wife — Mutual suicides from disappointed love — Suicide from mortifica- 
tion — Mutual suicide from poverty — A French lady while out shooting — A 
fisherman after praying — Determination to commit if not cured — Extraor- 
dinary case of suicide after seduction — Madame C. from remorse — M. de 
Pontalba after trying to murder his daughter-in-law — Young lady in a pet — 
Sir George Dunbar — James Sutherland while George III. was passing — 
Lancet given by a wife to her husband to kill himself— Servant girl — 
Curious verses by a suicide — Robber on being recognised — ^A man who 
ordered a candle to be made of his fat — After gaming — Writing whilst 
dying — From misfortune just at a moment of relief— Curious papers 
written by a suicide — By heating a barrel in the fire — By tearing out the 
brains — Sisters by the injunction of their eldest sister — Mutual from 
poverty — Girl from a dream — Three servants in one pond — Indifference 
as to mode — By starvation — A man forty-five days without eating — ^mu- 
tual of two boys after dining at a restaurateur's — By putting head under 
the ice — By a pair of spectacles — By jumping amongst the bears — Young 
lady from gambling — Verses by a suicide — To obtain salvation — A lover 
after accidentally shooting his mistress — Mutual attempt at suicide-— 
M. Kleist and Madame Vogle — Richard Smith and wife — Love and sui- 
cide—Bishop of Grenoble — Suicide in a pail of water — Mutual of two 
soldiers — Lord Scarborough — A man who advertised to kill himself for 
benefit of family — ^The case of Creech, and the romantic history of 

Madame de Monier — M , after threatening to kill his brother — Two 

young men — ^Two lovers — Homicide and suicide from jealousy — Cure 
of penchant for — Attempt to, prevented — Man in a belfry — Attempt at — 
The extraordinary case of Lovat by crucifixion. 

In the preceding chapters we have detailed the history of many 
remarkable cases of self-destruction. It is melancholy to con- 



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284 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

sider that the principle of life with which God has endowed 
us for high and noble purposes should have been sacrificed 
with that apparent coolness and self-possession which was 
manifested in many of the instances recorded in this work. 

'' How we abase that article our life ! Some people pluck it 
Out with a knife ; some blow it up with powder ; others duck it ; — 

One thing is sure, and Horace 

Has already said it ibr us, — 
Sooner or later, all must kick the inevitable bucket/' 

A gladiatorial contempt of death is becoming one of the 
most alarming features of the time ; in this respect we appear 
ambitious to imitate the conduct of the French sophists^ and 
seek^ in acts of desperation, a notoriety that nothing else 
can give us. In investigating, as we have endeavoured to do, 
the motives that have led to this heinous offence, we have in 
many cases been unsuccessful in tracing the act to any defi- 
nite principle. Either no reasons have been assigned or the 
accounts of the cases transmitted to us have been imperfect 
These individuab stand apart from the rest of the world, and 
exhibit an anomaly in the last act of life totally irreconcilable 
to all acknowledged principles of reason and human action. 
Eccentric in their lives, they have been desirous of manifesting 
the ruling passion strong in death. This mental idiosyncracy 
may be, and no doubt often is, the result of original consti- 
tution, aided in its development by the moral atmosphere in 
which the person is placed, as well as by education and other 
circumstances which are known to influence the formation of 
the mind and character. 

The singular facts adduced in this chapter are only brought 
forward as evidence of that anomalous condition of the mind 
referred to which leads to suicide; at the same time the 
instances wiU afford to the metaphysician valuable materials to 
assist him in his investigations into the philosophy of the 
human understanding. Some of the cases related, of course, 
admit of elucidation, but the majority will be found to puzzle 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 285 

the ingenuity even of those who pride themselves on their ca- 
pacity of understanding what is beyond the ken of ordinary 
mortals. 

E ustace Budgel was a man of much literary fame at the 
beginning of the last century, the relation and friend of Ad- 
dison, and a distinguished writer in the periodical publica- 
tions of that day. He was bom to a good fortune, and held a 
considerable place under government whilst Addison lived, 
who kept him in some order as to his political character. But 
having lost all court favour after Addison's decease, and being 
a man of great expense and vanity, having also sunk a large 
sum of money in the South Sea scheme, and having involved 
himself in a number of fruitless litigations, he became highly 
distressed in his circumstances. This, added to the chagrin of 
disappointed ambition and to other matters, determined him to 
make away with himself. He had always thought but lightly 
of revelation, and after Addison's death became an avowed 
free-thinker, which laxity of principle strongly concurred in 
disposing him to adopt this fatal resolution. Accordingly, 
after having been visibly agitated and almost distracted for 
several days, he took a boat, and ordered the waterman to go 
through London bridge. While the boat was under the 
bridge, Budgel threw himself overboard, having had the pre- 
vious caution to fill his pockets with stones. This happened 
in the year 1737. It was said to have been Budgel's opinion, 
"that when life becomes uneasy to support, and is over- 
whelmed with clouds and sorrows, man has a natural right to 
deprive himself of it, as it is better not to live than to live in 
pain." A man of unsettled principles easily persuades himself 
into the notion of suicide when he is actually suffering from 
some violence of his passions, even though he had not imbibed 
it before. For whenever the passions attempt to reason, it is 
only on the delusive suggestions of their own perturbed feel- 
ings. The morning before Budgel carried his deadly inten- 
tions into execution, he endeavoured to persuade his daughter 
to accompany him in his death. His only argument to her 



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286 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

waSy that her life was not worth holding; but she thought 
otherwise^ and refused to concur in the sacrifice. A slip of 
paper was left on his writing-table^ containing these few 
words^ as an apology for his rash act : — 

" What Cato did and Addison approved 
Cannot be wrong." 

Monsieur de Boissy, a French dramatic writer and satirist, 
being reduced to great indigence^ resolved to commit suicide. 
As he considered this action in no other light than as a friendly 
relief from further misery, he not only persuaded his wife to 
bear him company, but prevailed on her not to leave their 
child of five years old behind them, to the mercy of that 
world in which they had experienced so little sympathy and 
happiness. Nothing now remained but to fix on the mode of 
their death. They at length agreed to starve themselves. 
This not only seemed to them the most natural consequence 
of their condition, but also saved them from committing a 
violence either on their child, themselves, or each other, of 
which perhaps neither Boissy nor his wife found themselves 
capable. They determined therefore to wait with unshaken 
constancy the arrival of death under the meagre form of 
famine; and accordingly they shut themselves up in the 
solitude of their apartment, where, on accoimt of their dis- 
tresses, they had little reason to dread the interruption of 
company. They began, and resolutely persisted in their plan 
of starving themselves to death with their child. If any one 
called by chance at their apartment, they found it locked, and 
receiving no answer, it was concluded that nobody was at 
home. A friend, however, from that kind of instinct perhaps 
with which the spirit of friendship abounds, began to appre- 
hend that something must be much amiss with Boissy, as he 
could neither find him at home, nor get intelligence con- 
cerning him. Under much anxiety he returned once more 
to his apartment; and, whether from hearing any groans 
from within, or suspecting something was wrong, he ven- 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 287 

tured to break open the door. Boissy and his wife had 
been so much in earnest, that it was now three days since 
they had taken any sustenance^ and they were so far on their 
way to their intended home, that they were in sight, as it 
were, of the gates of death. The friend, entering into the 
room where this scene of death was going forward, found the 
miserable pair in such a situation as to be insensible of his in- 
trusion. Boissy and his wife had no eyes but for each other, 
and were not sitting in, but rather supported from falling on 
the ground by two chairs set opposite to each other. Their 
hancb were locked together, and in their ghastly looks was 
painted a kind of rueful compassion for their child, which 
hung at the mother's knee, and seemed as if looking up to her 
for nourishment, in its natural tenaciousness of life. This 
group of wretchedness did not less shock than aflSict his friend. 
But soon collecting from circumstances what it must mean, his 
first care was not to expostulate with Boissy or his wife, but 
to engage them to receive his succours, in which he found no 
small diflSculty. Their resolution had been taken in earnest 
They had got over the worst, and were in sight of their port. 
Their friend, however, took the right way of reconciling them 
to live by making the child join in the intercession. The child, 
who could have none of the prejudices or reasons they might 
have for not retracting, held up his little hands, and in con- 
cert with him entreated his parents to consent to live. Nature 
did not plead in vain. They were gradually restored to life, 
and provided with everything that could make them in good 
humour vrith its return. 

Euphrosine Lemoine was the daughter of a bourgeoise of 
the Faubourg St Antoine. She loved, and had admitted to 
secret interviews, a young cabinetmaker of the neighbourhood. 
Her parents, however, had long intended her to marry Mr. 

B f a man of some property. She reluctantly consented — 

pronounced the ^^ fatal yes ;" and the young man prudently left 
Paris for some years. In 1836 he yielded to the desire of 



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288 SINGULAR CA8ES OF SUICIDE. 

once more seeing her he had loved. They met, and the 
husband was dishonoured. This was followed by an elope- 
ment ; but the husband, who still loved his wife in spite of 
her crimes, discovered their retreat, and by the intervention 
of friends and of the police a reconciliation was effected — in 
vain. They again eloped, but only to perish tc^ether ; and 
they were found dead, eight days after, locked in each other's 
arms, in a miserable apartment they had hired for the purpose. 
Before the suicide, one of them had sketched with coal on the 
wall of their retreat two flaming hearts, and beneath, this in- 
scription — ** We have sworn eternal love, and death, terrible 
death, shall find us united." 

A boatman discovered in the Seine a mass which the stream 
seemed to roll along with difficulty; he found it was two 
bodies, a young woman about twenty, tastefiilly dressed, and 
a young man in the uniform of the eighth hussars. The left 
hand and foot of one victim were laid to the right hand and 
foot of the other. A bit of paper, careftilly wrapped up in 
parchment to preserve it from the water, told their names and 
motives : — 

** O you, whoever you may be, compassionate souls, who 
shall find these two bodies united, know that we loved each 
other with the most ardent affection, and that we have perished 
together, that we may be eternally united. Know, compas- 
sionate souls, that oiu: last desire is, that you should place us, 
united as we are, in the same grave. Man should not separate 
those whom death has joined. 

(Signed) " Florine. Goyon." 

Some years ago, a light was observed in the church of 
Rueil. This singular appearance occasioned a search ; on the 
approach of the authorities the light was extinguished, but a 
woman's stays were found on the pavement. The beadle of 
the church was met, apparently much agitated. On a further 
search, the proprietress of the stays was found concealed in a 
press under the draps mortuaireSy (the parish pall.) The un- 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 289 

happy man, on the detection of this profanation, drowbed 
himself. 

M. Malglaive, a half-pay officer, lately employed in a public 
office, had suffered some unexpected pecuniary losses. One 
of his friends received a note from him by the twopenny post, 
requesting him to call at his lodgings, where he would find a 
packet addressed to him. On proceeding there, and opening 
the packet, he found a letter in these words : — 

" When you shall have received this letter, my poor Eleanore 
and I will be no more. Be so good as to have our door 
opened ; you will find our eyes closed for ever. We are weary 
of misfortunes, and don't see how we can do better than end 
them. Satisfied of the courage and attachment of my excel- 
lent wife, I was certain that she would adopt my views, and 
take her share in my design." 

These young people (for the husband was but thirty-four 
and the wife twenty-eight) had taken the most minute pre- 
cautions to render the effect of the fumes of charcoal certain ; 
but a brace of loaded pistols was placed on the night table, 
,to be used if the charcoal had failed. 

Madame de F killed herself in the park of her cha- 
teau, with her own fowling-piece, which she took out on pre- 
tence of going shooting, as she was in the habit of doing. 
She loaded it with six balls, and placing the muzzle to her 
breast, discharged it. The only cause assigned is the vexation 

she and M. de F felt at her having no children to inherit 

their large fortune. 

A fisherman with a large family, residing at Vellon d'Auffes, 
near Marseilles, had been driven by domestic trouble to form 
a design of suicide, which he had long announced. One 
Simday he climbed a high rock in the neighbourhood, where, 
in the sight of his fiiends below, with a crucifix in his hands, 
he was evidently saying his last prayer, preparatory to suicide. 
One of the neighbours, guessing his intentions, reached the 
spot suddenly, and seized him ; a struggle ensued on the edge 



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290 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

of the precipice ; the unhappy man prevailed^ and^ escaping 
fix>m the arms of his friendly antagonist, flung himself over. 

Voltaire relates the particulars of the following singular 
case : — An Englishman of the name of Bacon Morris, a half- 
pay officer, and a man of much intellect, called on Voltaire at 
Paris. The man was afflicted with a cruel malady, for which 
he was led to suppose there was no cure. After a certain 
number of visits, he one day called on the philosopher, with a 
purse and a couple of papers in his hand. ^' One of these 
papers,^ he said, addressing Voltaire, " contains my will, the 
other my epitaph ; and this bag of money is intended to de- 
fray the expenses of my fimeraL I am resolved to try for 
fifteen days what can be effected by regimen and the remedies 
prescribed, in order to render life less insupportable ; and if I 
succeed not, I am determined to kill myself. You will bury 
me in what maimer you please ; my epitaph is short." He 
then read it; it consisted of the following two words from 
Petronius, ** Valete, curae" — ** Farewell, care." " Fortunately," 
says Voltaire, " for him and myself, who loved him, he was 
cured, and did not kill himself." 

Two young people — Auguste, oged twenty-six, and Hen- 
riette, aged eighteen — ^had long loved each other, but the 
parents of the girl would not consent to the match. In this 
difficulty the young man wrote to Henriette : — 

" Men are inexorable. Well, let us set them at defiance. 
God is all-powerful ; our marriage shall be celebrated in his 
presence ; and to-morrow, if you love me, we will write, in 
our blood, at the foot of the cross, our marriage vow." 

This proposition turned the weak girl's head, and she con- 
sented. They proceeded one night to a field near St Denis, 
where there was a cross. On their way they made incisions 
in both their arms, to procure the blood in which the follow- 
ing acte de mariage was written : — 

*^ O great God, who governs the destinies of mankind, take 
us under thy holy protection I As man will not unite us, we 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 291 

come on our knees to implore thy sanction to our indissoluble 
union. O God, take pity on two of thy poor children I As- 
semble all thy heavenly choir, that on so happy a day they 
may partake our transports, and be witnesses of the holy joy 
that shines in our hearts. O God I O ye angels of heaven 
and saints of Paradise ! look down upon a happiness which 
even the blessed may envy. 

^^ And you, shades of our parents, come to this affecting 
ceremony, come and give us your approbation and your 
blessing. It is in the presence of you all that we, Pierre 
Auguste and Marie Henriette, swear to belong to eetqh other, 
and to each other only, and to be faithful to each other to the 
hour of dissolution. Yes, we swear it — we swear it with one 
voice. You are our witnesses, and we are united for life and 
for death. 

(Signed in letters of blood) " Pierre Auguste. 

** Marie Henriette." 

The very day after this visionary marriage it was dissolved 
by the suicide of the unfortunate Henriette. The moment 
her fault had become irreparable, her betrayer abandoned her, 
and the poor creature threw herself into the Seine. On the 
body was foimd the foregoing singular acte de manage^ to 
which she had subjoined, with a feeble hand, the following 
note: — 

" He has dishonoured me — the monster I He deceived me 
by pretences which went to my heart ; but it is he who is to 
be pitied — wretch that he is I" 

A young woman, of a highly honourable commercial family, 
put an end to herself, overwhelmed with the idea of having 
forfeited the esteem of her husband. Rosalie had from her 

youth been destined to be the wife of M. C > a gentleman 

of her own station in life. Their union, though not dis- 
tinguished by any transports of love, was soberly and rationally 
happy, and they had two children. 

Unfortunately, Madame C was obliged by affairs of 

business to go into the country while her husband remained 

u2 



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292 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

in Paris. During this absence, she appears to have formed a 
guilty passion, (the circumstances of which have not been re- 
vealed ;) but on her return home, the remorse of her conscience 
so preyed upon her spirits as to be at last unsupportable, and, 
after a long and painful stniggle, she resolved upon suicide. 
Just before the &tal act, she wrote a long letter to her sister, of 
which we can only spare room for the most striking passages : — 

" I have resolved to terminate my existence to-day ; but I 
have not had, during the whole morning, resolution to leave 
my poor little children, who are unconscious of their mother's 

agony Forgive, my dear sister, the grief that my 

death is about to cause you. If my excellent husband has 

offended you, forgive him If I had appreciated his 

worth, I should not be the wretch I am: my negligence 
towards him began my misfortune, but I had nothing to 
reproach myself with till my fatal journey to Sarcelles — that 

journey was my ruin ! If I had your virtues, I should 

have been the happiest of women ; but I allowed myself to be 
bewildered by a sentiment which I had not before known, 
and in my culpable frenzy I was guilty before I intended it 
O, my God I may my repentance be accepted, and may thy 
goodness inspire my husband with a peculiar, an exalted degree 
of parental affection for those unhappy and innocent children. 
Protect them, O, my God, and grant that they may not 
curse the memory of their unhappy mother, who was guilty 
without intending it 

" And you, O my dearest Louis, forgive your wretched 
wife, who offers you this her last farewell." 

One may judge the consternation which this affecting letter 
spread in the family. The sister, on receiving this letter, 

hastened with Dr. Bouillet to Mr. C 's house : . it was too 

late — they found the poor woman in the last agonies of death, 
whilst her little children were playing about the adjoining 
room, indulging in the sports of their age. 

M. de Pontalba was one of the great proprietors of France. 
His son had been a page of Napoleon's, and afterwards a dis- 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 293 

tinguished officer, aide-de-camp to Marshal Ney, and a pro- 
teg6 of the Duke of Elchingen. He married the daughter of 
Madame d'Almonaster, and for some time they lived happily; 
but on the death of her mother, Madame de Pontalba began to 
indulge in such extravagances that even the enormous for- 
tune of the Pontalbas was unequal to it. This led to some 
remonstrance on the part of her husband, on the morning 
after which she disappeared from the hotel, and neither he 
nor his children had any clue to her retreat At last, after 
an interval of some months, a letter arrived from her to her 
husband, dated New Orleans, in which she announced that 
she meant to apply for a divorce ; but for eighteen months 
nothing more was heard of her, except by her drafts for 
money. At last she returned, but only to afflict her family. 
Her son was at the Military Academy of St. Cyr. She in- 
duced him to elope, and the boy was plunged in every species 
of debauchery and expense. This afflicted, in the deepest 
manner, his grandfather, who revoked a bequest he had made 
him of about £4,000 a-year, and seemed to apprehend from 
him nothing but ftiture ruin and disgrace. The old man, 
eighty-two years of age, resided in his chateau of Mont 
Leveque, whither, in October, 1834, Madame de Pontalba 
went to attempt a reconciliation with the wealthy senior. 
The day after her arrival she found she could make no im- 
pression on her father-in-law, and was about to return to Paris, 
when old M. de Pontalba, observing a moment when she was 
alone in her apartment, entered it with a brace of double-bar- 
relled pistols, locked the door, and, approaching his astonished 
daughter-in-law, desired her to recommend herself to God, for 
that she had but few minutes to live ; but he did not even 
allow her one minute — ^he fired immediately, and two balls 
entered her left breast She started up and fled to a closet, her 
blood streaming about, and exclaiming that she would submit 
to any terms, if he would spare her. "JVb, no I You must die!^^ 
and he fired his second pistol. She had instinctively covered 
her heart with her hand ; the hand was miserably fractured by 



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294 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

the balls, but it saved her heart She then escaped to another 
closety where a third shot was fired at her without effect ; and 
at last she rushed in despair to the door, and while M. de 
Pontalba was discharging his last barrel at her, she succeeded 
in opening it The &mily, alarmed by the firing, arrived, and 
she was saved. The old man, on seeing that she was beyond 
his reach, returned to his apartment, and blew out his brains. 
It seemed clear that he had resolved to make a sacrifice of the 
short remnant of his own life, in order to release his son and 
his grandson fit)m their unfortunate connexion with Madame 
de Pontalba. But he failed — none of her wounds were 
mortal; and within a month after, Madame de Pontalba, 
perfectly recovered, in high health and spirits, radient, and 
crowned with flowers, was to be seen at all the £etes and con- 
certs of the capital. 

A wealthy inhabitant of St. Denis arrived firom a long 
journey, in which he had occasion to carry a brace of pistols ; 
these he deposited, loaded, on a table in his bedchamber, and 
sat down to dinner with his family and some fi-iends, invited 
to celebrate his return. Hardly had dinner begun when a 
discussion arose between the father and his eldest daughter, 
about twenty years of age. This young woman had always 
shewn great jealousy of her younger sister, of whom she pre- 
tended her father was fonder than of her. On this occasion 
the same feeling broke out, and after some strong exhibition 
of ill-temper on her part, her father said, " Nay, if you are 
sulky, you had better go to bed." The girl got up immediately, 
went to her father's bed-room, took one of the pistols, shot 
herself, and expired in a few hours in great agoiiy. 

Sir George Dunbar, Baronet, Major in the 14th Light 
Dragoons, quartered at Norwich, unhappily got involved in a 
dispute with his fellow officers. He was a man of quick 
sensibility, which may have betrayed him into error on the 
occasion ; but whichever party was to blame, the quarrel was 
of a most violent nature, and he returned home much bruised 
from blows received in the scufile. The next day, repairing 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 295 

to the mess-room^ he declared to the other officers, " That, if he 
had offended any of them, he was ready to make an apolc^ ; 
or, if that was not thought sufficient, to give them honourable 
satisfaction." This proposal was refused, and the officers 
insisted " That he must sell out, for that, as he had abused the 
whole regiment, nothing else would or could satisfy them.** 
To this, Sir George replied, " That he would live and die in 
the regiment, of which he had been an officer for twenty years, 
and that a pistol should end the dispute." Here ended all 
communication, but the business made a most deep impression 
on his mind. For two successive days he neither took food 
nor slept; and his melancholy appearance filled his family 
with the most lively apprehensions. Lady Dunbar locked up 
his razors, pistols, &c., and watched him with unceasing 
vigilance. Her distress at seeing him so wretched was very 
great, and in the night she moaned very much, and was quite 
restless. Sir George said, ** Maria, you disturb me ; I will 
get up;" which he immediately did, put on his watch-coat, and 
laid down on the floor. Lady Dunbar then endeavoured to 
conceal the anguish of her mind, in hopes to pacify him, and, 
being overcome with watching, fell asleep. Sir George, as 
soon as he perceived it, left the room, and at about five or six 
in the morning walked out. Her ladyship, when she awoke, 
being much alarmed at his absence, eagerly inquired for him, 
and was told he had taken a morning walk, having a violent 
headache, and thinking the air would do him good. This, 
however, proved only a pretence ; for he had gone to purchase 
a case of pistols, and stood by while the bullets were casting, 
which, with the pistols, he brought home, concealed under his 
watch-coat On his return, he went to Lady Dunbar, who 
took hold of his hand, observing at the same time, ** How 
cold you are I" To which he answered, " Yes; I shall be 
better presently." She then proposed to make breakfast, but 
he declined it, saying he had a letter to write first, and that 
he would ring to let her know when he had finished it. He 
then parted firom her, after pressing her hand very hard ; went 



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296 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

to his study^ wrote his will, and instantly after blew out his 
brains. Lady Dunbar, who heard the report of the pistol, ran 
down into the room, and fell insensible on his body, which 
lay extended on the floor, and from which she was taken up 
covered with his blood, and immediately removed to a friend's 
house. They were a very happy couple, and she had accom- 
panied him in all his campaigns. 

As George IIL was passing in his carriage through the 
park to St James's, a gentleman dressed in black, standing 
in the green park, close to the rails, just as the carriage came 
opposite to where he stood, was observed to pull a paper 
hastily frx)m his pocket, which he stuck on the rails, addressed 
to the king, threw oflF his hat, discharged a pistol in his own 
bosom, and instantly fell. Though surrounded with people 
collected to see the king pass, the rash act was so suddenly 
perpetrated, that no one suspected his &tal purpose till he had 
accomplished it. He expired immediately. In his left hand 
was a letter addressed '^ To the coroner who shall take an 
inquest on James Sutherland." This unfortunate gentleman 
was judge-advocate at Minorca during the governorship of 
General Murray, with whom he had a law- suit which termi- 
nated in his favour. The general, however, got him sus- 
pended and re-called. This, and the failure of some applica- 
tions to government, had greatly deranged his mind. He was 
very genteelly dressed, but had only two-pence and some 
letters in his pocket ; the letters were carried to the Secretary 
of State's Office. He left a singular paper behind him, ex- 
pressive of being in a sound mind, and that the act was 
deliberate. 

The following case is mentioned by Dr. A. T. Thomson, as 
illustrative of the extraordinary determination often exhibited 
by those resolved on self-destruction. A gentleman, who 
had long enjoyed an unblemished reputation, was appointed 
the treasurer of a society; but having unfortunately fallen into 
pecuniary difficulties, he not only applied the frmds of the 
society to his own purposes, but forged some bills. As the 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 297 

punishment of the latter crime was penal at that period, on 
being arrested, he made an attempt upon his life, but did not 
succeed. His prior good character, and the respect in which 
he had been held, prevented him from being immediately sent 
to jail ; and he was permitted to remain in the custody of the 
officer of justice who arrested him. The attempt which he 
had made upon his Ufe rendered it requisite that every imple- 
ment which could be employed by the suicide should be 
withheld from him ; but in other respects, as much indulgence 
was extended to him as possible, under the circumstances of 
the case. His wife also was permitted to visit him, but she 
was searched before entering his apartment. He was locked 
up every night, and he was awoke in the morning by an 
officer, at a certain hour. On the third morning after his 
arrest, the officer, as usual, entered his room, and called to him, 
but received no answer; he then approached the bed, and 
found that his prisoner was dead. A medical man was imme- 
diately sent for. It appeared that this gentleman had studied 
anatomy, and knew how to use a ' lancet ; and as he had a 
thorough conviction that he should be hanged, he had per- 
suaded his wife to bring a lancet to him in her mouth. After 
being locked up for the night, he undressed himself, and 
opened the femoral artery, the blood from which he allowed 
to flow into the pan of the night chair, until, as was supposed, 
he became faint He then bound a handkerchief round the 
upper part of the thigh, and placed himself in bed, in the 
position in which he was discovered. Notwithstanding his 
great loss of blood, he contrived so effisctually to stem the 
ftirther flow, that none was seen on the floor of the room, and 
only a few spots on the sheets of the bed." 

A servant girl of Mursley, Bucks, committed suicide 
while her master and his men were weeding in the field, by 
taking a cord and tying it tight round the upper part of her 
left thigh, and with a fleam and stick used in bleeding cattle, 
making a deep incision through the artery. She bled to death 
before any assistance could be procured. 



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298 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

John Upson, of Woodbridge, in Suffolk, a glover, who was 
committed to the castle for felony a few days before, hanged 
himself in his own room with a garter. The following verses 
were written in a prayer-book lying by him : — 

*' Farewell, vain world, I*ve had enoug^h of thee, 
And DOW am careless what thou say'st of me ; 
Thy smiles I court not, nor thy frowns I fear, 
My cares ate past, my heart lies easy here. 
What faults they find in me take care to shun, 
And look at home : enough is to be done. 
" June 26, 1774. Poor John the Glover.'* 

Mr. Brower, a pruit-cutter, near Aldersgate-street, was 
attacked on the road to Enfield by a single highwayman, 
whom he recollected to be a tradesman in the city, and called 
him by his name. The robber immediately shot himself 
through the head. 

The case of a man is recorded in a French paper who 
burnt with one of the ^itrongest passions of which we ever 
heard an account His mistress having proved unfaithfiil to 
him, he called up his servant, informed him that it was his 
intention to kill himself, and requested that, after his death, 
he would make a candle of his fat, and carry it lighted to his 
mistress. He then wrote a letter, in which he told her that 
as he had long burnt for her, she might now see that his 
flames were real ; for the cmdle by which she would read the 
note was composed of part of his miserable body. After this 
he committed suicide. 

Lieutenant Colonel Maatren, of the Prussian Hussars, 
having been stripped, at the gaming table, of all his property, 
even to his watch and the rings he wore, returned home. 
Next day he disposed of his commission ; and having offered 
marriage to a respectable female whom he had seduced, a 
clergyman was sent for, and the ceremony performed. He 
then retired to a private room., and while some friends were 
felicitating the bride on her good fortune, the report of a 
pistol announced the catastrophe that had taken place. The 



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SINGtJLAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 299 

company hastened to the room ; but the Colonel was no more. 
On the table was a letter to his wife, mentioning the cause of 
his death and inclosing the amount of the sale of his com- 
mission. 

The particulars of the following case were read by M. 
Gerard de Gray, at the Societe de Medecine. A young man, 
having spent in the capital all his finances, returned home 
to recruit his purse; but failing in his object, he resolved 
to put an end to himself. He made no secret of his deter- 
mination. On the 16 th of August he carried it into exe- 
cution. His bed-room was about nine feet square, and a 
little more than six in height. On every aperture in it by 
which the wr might possibly have admittance, he pasted paper, 
and about five in the afternoon lighted a brazier of coals, 
which he set on the floor close by his bed. He then left 
the apartment, careftdly closing the door after him. At six, 
he said to an old lady, " My brazier is now ready — I go to 
die." On the following morning, the family having become 
alarmed, the door of the chamber was forced open. An in- 
supportable vapour issued from the place, and the body of the 
unfortunate youth was found stretched across the bed. On 
the floor, the brazier still occupied the place already mentioned ; 
it was of considerable capacity, and seemed to have been 
lighted with paper. Near the body were placed two volumes 
of an old Encyclopaedia; one of them at the foot of the bed, 
open at the article Ecstasy ; the other near the right hand 
displayed the article Death. On the latter volume was a 
pencil and a bit of paper, with the words, Je meurs avec 
calme et banheurf clearly written, with the date annexed ; but 
beneath that there appeared, in characters very difficult to be 
read, the following Words : Au moment de Vagonie faurais 
voulu vfCttre procure une sensation agreable. It would appear 
that the deceased immediately on writing the scrawl, had 
fallen into the position in which he was found. The attitude 
did not betoken any struggle at the last moment ; yet it seems 
probable, from the signs of sickness of the stomach, and the 



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300 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

mention of agony in the last phrase, that life did not become 
extinct without some painfiil sensations. 

Madame Augine having been personally attached to the 
late Queen of France, expected to suffer under the execrable 
tyranny of Robespierre. She often declared to her sister, 
Madame Campan, that she never would wait the execution of 
the order of arrest, and that she was determined to die rather 
than fall into the hands of the executioner. Madame Campan 
endeavoured, by the principles of morality and philosophy, to 
persuade her sister to abandon this desperate resolution ; and 
in her last visit, as if she had foreseen the fate of this unfor- 
tunate woman, she added, '^ Wait the future with resignation ; 
some fortunate occurrence may turn aside the &te you fear, 
even at the moment you may believe the danger to be 
greatest'' Soon afterwards the guards appeared before the 
house where Madame Augine resided, to take her to prison. 
Firm in her resolution to avoid the ignominy of execution, 
she ran to the top of the house, threw herself from the balcony, 
and was taken up dead. As they were carrying her corpse to 
the grave, the attendants were obliged to turn aside to let pass 
the cart which conveyed Robespierre to the scaffold ! 

In the year 1600, on the 10th of April, a person of the 
name of William Dorrington threw himself from the top 
of St Sepulchre's church, in London, having previously left 
on the leads or roof a paper of which the following is a 
copy:— 

** Let no other man be troubled for that which is my own 
fault ; John Bunkley and his fellows, by perjury and other bad 
means, have brought me to this end. God forgive it them, 
and I do. And, O Lord, forgive me this cruel deed upon my 
own body, which I utterly detest, and most humbly pray him 
to cast it behind him ; and that of his most exceeding and 
infinite mercy he will forgive it me, with all my other sins. 
But surely, after they had slandered me, every day that I lived 
was to me a hundred deaths, which caused me rather to die 
with infamy than to live in infamy and torment 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 301 

'^ Oh, summa Deltas, quss coelis et superis presides, meis 
medere miseris, ut spretis inferis, letis superis, reis dona 
veniam* 

" Trusting in his only passion and merits of Jesus Christ, 
and confessing my exceeding great sins, I say — * Master, have 
mercy upon me I '" 

This paper \vas folded up in form of a letter, and indorsed, 
** Oh, let me live, and I will call upon thy name 1" 

Thomas Davers, who built at a vast expense a little fort on 
the River Thames, near Blackwall, known by the name of 
Davers's Folly, after passing through a series of misfortunes, 
chiefly owing to an unhappy turn of mind, put an end to his 
miserable life. Some few hours before his death, he was seen 
to write the following card : — " Descended from an ancient and 
honourable family, I have, for fifteen years past, suffered more 
indigence than ever gentleman submitted to; neglected by 
my acquaintance, traduced by my enemies, and insulted by 
the vulgar, 1 am so reduced, worn down and tired, that I have 
nothing left but that lasting repose, the joint and dernier 
inheritance of all. 

" Of laudanum an ample dose 
Must all my present ills compose ; 
But the best laudanum of all 
I want (not resolution) but a ball. 
" N. B. Advertise this. T. D." 

A farmer near Allandale, in Northumberland, procured a 
gun-barrel, which he loaded with powder and shot, and having 
placed the stock end in the fire, he leaned with his belly 
against the other. In this position he awaited the dreadftil 
moment When the barrel became hot, an explosion took 
place, by which he was shot through the body. He had, 
some time before, been in the habit of excessive drinking, 

* " Oh, supreme God, who inhabitest the highest heavens, heal my afflic- 
tions ; as with the wretched in hell, the joyful in heaven, shew mercy to the 
guilty." 



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302 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

which had impaired his intellects, and probably produced a 
derangement which led to the commission of the deed. 

Mr. Heniy Grymes, of Virginia, U. S., whilst labouring 
under the influence of delirium, broke his skull with a stone. 
After having shattered it, he took out a piece about three 
inches long, and two broad. Concluding that this would not 
put a period to his existence, he thrust his fingers into his 
head, and tore out a considerable quantity of his brains. In- 
stead of immediate death, he instatdly returned to the full 
exercise of reason! walked home, and lived to the second 
evening following. He appeared very penitent and rational 
to the last moment of his life ; and in the meantime gave to 
his fiiends the above statement of the horrid transaction. 
The cause of this derangement is believed to have been a 
disappointment in marriage. Through the whole of his life 
he supported an unsullied character. 

'^ A blacksmith chaiged an old gun-barrel with a brace of 
bullets, and, putting one end into the fire of his forge, tied a 
string to the handle of his bellows, by pulling which he 
could make them play whilst he was at a convenient distance, 
kneeling down ; he then placed his head near the mouth of 
the barrel, and moving the bellows by means of the string, 
they blew up the fire, he keeping his head, with astonishing 
firmness and horrible deliberation, in that position till the 
fiuther end of the barrel was so heated as to kindle the pow- 
der, whose explosion instantly drove the bullets through his 
brain. Though I know this happened literally as I relate 
it, yet there is something so extraordinary, and almost incre- 
dible, in the circumstance, that perhaps I should not have 
mentioned it, had it not been well attested, and known to the 
inhabitants of Geneva, and to all the English there."* 

A Hanoverian, eighty years of age, resided at a country 
house near Berne, with his five daughters, the eldest of whom 
was aged thirty, and the youngest sixteen. The family were 

* Dr. Moore's Travels through France, vol. i. let. 32. 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 303 

of very retired habits, but were governed chiefly by the eldest 
sister^ who was noted for her imperious disposition, and op- 
position to religion. A young Englishman, who had been for 
some time an occasional visitor to the house, became smitten 
with one of the daughters ; and one fine evening, as the five 
sisters were taking the air in a carriage in the avenues of the 
Eugi, they met him in his cabriolet, accompanied by a fiiend. 
After parading up and down for some time, an exchange of 
vehicles was proposed to and accepted by the young ladies, 
one of whom accompanied the Englishman, and his fiiend 
entered the carriage with the ladies. A similar change was 
again effected, until the Englishman found himself with the 
object of his affections, with whom he immediately decamped. 
The others, thinking he had returned to the house by another 
road, gave themselves no uneasiness, but continued their 
road homewards. On arriving, however, they found he had 
not returned. The eldest sister, becoming alarmed, sent and 
informed the police that her sister had been run away with ; 
and the next day, news having been received that the run- 
aways were at Fribourg, she immediately set out for that 
place, accompanied by one of her sisters. Before her de- 
parture, she told the two who remained, that if she did not 
return by a certain hour, it would be a proof that their family 
was dishonoured ; in which case, it became the duty of them 
all to renounce life. She required, and even extorted, fi*om 
them a solemn oath, that they would drown themselves if they 
(the two elder sisters) did not return at the hour mentioned. 
On arriving at Fribourg, and finding their sister, whom they 
could not persuade to return home, they two resolved upon 
putting their resolution into effect ; for which purpose they 
repaired to the banks of the Sarine ; but the younger, on 
arriving, finding her courage fail, exclaimed, " Kill me, sister ; 
I can never throw myself into the river." The eldest drew 
out a dagger, and was about to perpetrate the deed, when a 
peasant coming up, interrupted the design. She immediately 
despatched the peasant to prevent her other two sisters firom 



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304 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

putting their oath into effect; but the precaution was too 
late. After having prepared every necessary for their aged 
father during the day, they dressed themselves in their best 
appaiely and, on arriving at the banks of the Aar, fastened 
themselves with a shawl, and, embracing each other, precipi- 
tated themselves into the river, in which position their bodies 
were found some time afterwards. 

The particulars of the following extraordinary case we find 
recorded in the Annual Register for 1823. It appears that a 
man of the name of Spring and his paramour, Mary Gooch, 
had agreed to commit mutual suicide. For that purpose a 
large dose of laudanum was purchased ; but the dose which 
Spring took was not sufficient for his purpose, and he re- 
covered. The poor woman was successful in killing herself. 
The following is the evidence given by Spring at the coroner's 
inquest : — 

** John Spring said, that he was present with the deceased 
in bed when she died, about seven o'clock on Friday morning ; 
that she did not die in agony; that on the Wednesday evening 
the deceased and witness came to an agreement to buy some 
laudanum to take together, that they might both be found 
dead together in the same bed ; that on the Thursday morn- 
ing, he (the witness) went to the chemist's and bought some 
laudanum; he thinks four ounces; that when he came in, 
Mary Gooch said, * Your heart has failed you ; you have not 
bought it for me ;' that she got up and felt witness's pocket. 
The deceased said, * You have got something here.' Witness 
replied, * Oh, that will soon do our business, if we take it.' 
She said, 'Have you any money left of what I gave you 
to buy it with?' Witness said, *Yes, there are some half- 
pence.' The deceased said she would purchase some oranges 
with them, to take after it, and would send for them; that 
she sent a boy of Webb's, who returned with two oranges ; 
that the deceased peeled them ; that she took two wine 
glasses off the shelf, and placed hers on the box, and said, 
* Now let us take it' She poured half into one glass, and 



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SINGULAR CAS£8 OF SUICIDE. 305 

half into another. One glass she kept to herself, and the 
other she gave to witness. The deceased said, ^ Let us take 
hold of each other's hands.' Witness said, * No, my dear ; 
if we do, we shall not take it ; let us turn back to back, and take 
it' Deceased and witness turned their backs to one another, 
and drank the contents of the glasses. After they had drunk 
the laudanum, the deceased said, *What shall we do with 
the bottle?' Witness said, he would go and throw it away. 
She said, she would in the mean time wipe the glasses. 
He threw away the bottle, and the deceased had wiped the 
glasses by the time he came back. The deceased said, ^ Let 
us go to bed.' They both went to bed together. The de- 
ceased afterwards got out of bed, placed a chair against the 
door, to fasten it, and drew the window blinds. The de- 
ceased then said, * Now we shall die happily together.' This 
was between two and three o'clock. He asked the deceased 
how she came by the money she had given him ; the deceased 
said, ' That is of no consequence, and does not signify ;' 
the deceased and witness conversed together about various 
things, till eight o'clock. She said, she had sent her gown 
to her aunt's, and that the money came from her. The 
laudanum did not take any effect till about two ; she then 
began to sleep. The witness was sick about four, and the 
deceased was awake at that time. The deceased was not sick 
at all, and fell into a sound sleep at six. The witness awoke 
her between six and seven ; the deceased then said, * How 
large your eyes look I ' Witness said to her, * Mary, I am 
afraid my laudanum will take no effect' The deceased said, 
* Oh dear ! if 1 should die without you, and you are taken 
before a court of justice, 1 shall not die easy.' Witness told 
her she might be quite happy, for, if it did not take effect, 
he would get up and buy some that would, as he would die 
with her. The deceased said, * My dear, pray give me that 
blue muslin handkerchief, that I may have it in my hand 
when I die. Pray, don't you take anything ; but let me die, 
and you will get over.' She then laid her head on the shoulder 

X 



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306 6INOULAB CASES OF SUICIDB. 

of the \yitne8S9 and died almost immediately. The body began 
to grow cold by the time he came in from the town, about 
half'past eight The deceased had been in a bad state of 
mind ever since he had known her. She always appeared to 
wish to die, and had attempted to destroy herself before, 
when the witness was at a fiur. About a month previous, the 
deceased having come home in an unhappy state of mind, 
got up about twelve at night, took a linen line, pinned her 
cap over her head, and went out of the house, taking a small 
chair with her. She had one end of a rope about her neck, 
and was about to throw it over the arm of an apple-tree, when 
he overtook her, brought her in, and took the rope from her. 
The deceased, all Wednesday evening, was very anxious to die, 
and wished witness to die with her. On Thursday, she ex- 
jMressed a desire that they should both die together. The 
witness had known the deceased ever since Michaelmas Bury 
&ir. She had been very anxious about the payment of the 
half-year's rent ; the witness said, he could go to his friends 
and get it ; deceased said, ' If you go away, I shall be afraid 
that you will not come back again.' It was not from want 
that they committed the act ; it had been in contemplation 
some time." 

A young lady, at a boarding school near Birmingham, had 
been set a task, and felt indignant at being obliged to learn 
it out of an old book, while some of the other scholars were 
indulged with new ones. She went next day to an old woman 
in the neighbourhood, and told her '^ that she had had a 
singular dream, — that she was dead, and had been carried 
to her grave by such and such young ladies," naming some 
of her companions and young friends; and asked the old 
woman what she thought of it ; who replied, " that she put 
no faith in dreams." A few days after, when going a walk 
with the other scholars, she loitered behind, and making her 
escape from the party, drowned herself in a pool near the 
schooL She left her hat (or bonnet) on the edge of the pool, 
wherein was pinned a letter for her parents, entreating their 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 307 

forgiveness of such a rash act She therein requested to have 
for her bearers those whom she had said she dreamed had 
carried her to her grave ; and enclosed some locks of her hair 
as mementos of jfriendship. She was only about eleven years 
of age, and the daughter of very respectable parents in the 
neighbourhood. 

Sophia Edwards and Mary West, two female-servants, in 
the family of the Rev. John Gibbons, of Brasted, in Kent, 
were left in care of the house for some weeks, in consequence 
of the absence of their master and mistress. During this 
time they had the misfortune to break some articles of fiir- 
niture, and to spoil four dozen of knives and forks, by incau- 
tiously lighting a fire in an oven where they had been placed 
to keep them firom rust The unfortunate girls, however, 
bought other knives and forks. Upon the return of Mr. and 
Mrs. Gibbons, the servants were severely reprimanded for 
what had happened, and one of them received notice to leave 
her place. They both appeared to be very uncomfortable for 
two days afterwards; and, on the second day, the footman 
heard them in conversation respecting Martha Viner, a late 
servant in the same family, who had drowned herself in a 
pond in the garden, and observing one to the other, that she 
had done so through trouble. The elder then said to the 
younger — "We will have a swim to-night, Mary!'* The 
other replied — "So we will, girl." The footman thought 
they were jesting, and said — "Ay, and I will swim with 
you I" Sophia Edwards replied — " No you shan't; but I will 
have a swim, and afterwards I will haunt you." After this 
conversation, they continued about their work as usual, and at 
six o'clock asked the footman to get tea for them. While 
he was in the pantry for that purpose, he heard the kitchen 
door shut; and on his return into the kitchen, they were 
both gone. The footman afterwards thought he heard them 
upstairs, and therefore took no notice of their absence, 
until eight o'clock, when he told his master and mistress. 
Search was made for them about the house, garden, and 

X 2 

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308 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

neighbourhood, during the whole night; and early next 
momingy the same pond was dragged which had so recently 
been the watery grave of Martha Viner, when both their 
bodies were found in it, lying close to each other. 

The following whimsical instance of indifference as to the 
mode of suicide is related in Sir John Hawkins's History of 
the Science and Practice of Music, voL v. 7 : — " One Jere- 
miah Clarke, organist of St Paul's, an. dom. 1700, was at the 
house of a friend in the country, from whence he took an 
abrupt resolution of returning to London. His friend having 
observed marks of great dejection in his behaviour, and 
knowing him to be a man disappointed in love, furnished him 
not only with a horse, but a servant to take care of him. A 
fit of melancholy seizing him on the road, he alighted and 
went into a field, in the comer whereof was a pond, and also 
trees; where he began to debate with himself, whether he 
should then end his days by hanging or drowning. Not 
being able to resolve on either, he thought of making what he 
looked on as chance, the umpire. He tossed a piece of 
money into the air, which came down on its edge and stuck 
in the clay. Though the determination answered not his 
wishes, it was far from ambiguous, as it seemed to forbid both 
methods of destruction ; and would have given unspeakable 
comfort to a mind less disordered than his. Being thus in- 
terrupted in his purpose, he returned, and mounting his 
horse, rode on to London, where, in a short time after, he 
shot himself 

Falret relates the case of an apothecary who, on receiving a 
reproof from his sweatheart, went home and blew out his 
brains, having first written the following sentence on his 
door — " When a man knows not how to please his mistress, 
he ought to know how to die." 

A German merchant, aged thirty-two, depressed by severe 
reverses of fortune, came to the resolution of starving himself 
to death. With this view he repaired, on the 15th of Sep- 
tember, 1818, to an unfrequented wood, where he constructed 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 309 

a hut of boughs, and remained, without food, till the 3rd of 
October following. At this period, he was found, by the 
landlord of a public-house, still alive, but very feeble, speech- 
less, and insensible. Broth, with the yolk of an egg, was 
administered to him ; he swallowed some with difficulty, and 
died immediately. 

In the pocket of the unfortunate man was found a journal, 
written in pencil, singular of its kind, and remarkable as a 
narrative of his feelings and sentiments. It commences in 
these words ; — " The generous philanthropist, who shall one 
day find me here after my death, is requested to inter me ; 
and in consideration of this service, to keep my clothes, purse, 
knife, and letter-case. Moreover observe, that lam no suicide^ 
but have died of hunger, because through wicked men I have 
lost the whole of my very considerable property, and am 
unwilling to become a burden to my friends." The ensuing 
remark is dated September 17th, the second day of absti- 
nence: — "I yet live; but how I have been soaked during 
the night, and how cold it has been. O God 1 when will my 
sufferings terminate! No human being has for three days 
been seen here ; only some birds." The journal continues, 
" And again, three days, and I have been so soaked during 
the night, that my clothes to-day are not quite dry. How 
hard this is no one knows, and my last hour must soon 
arrive. Doubtlessly, during the heavy rain, a little water has 
got into my throat; but the thirst is not to be slaked with 
water ; moreover, I have had none even of this for six days, 
since I am no longer able to move from the place. Yesterday, 
for the first time during the eternity which, alas I I have 
already passed here, a man approached me within eight or 
ten paces. He was certainly a shepherd. I saluted him in 
silence, and he returned it in the same manner; probably, he 
will find me after my death !" 

*^ Finally, I here protest before the all-wise God, that, not- 
withstanding all the misfortunes which I have suflFered from 
my youth, I yet die very unwillingly, although necessity 



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310 SINOUI^R CABE8 OF SUICIDE. 

has imperiously driven me to it. Nevertheless^ I pray for it 
Father^ forgive him ; tor he kno^s not what he does ! More 
I cannot write for faintness and spasms ; and this will be the 
hist Dated near the forest, by the side of the Goat public- 
house. Sept 29, 1818. J. F. N.'' 

It is evident, from the above account, that consciousness 
and the power of writing remained till the fourteenth day of 
abstinence. The operation of famine was aggravated by 
mental distress, and still more by exposure to the weather. 
This, indeed, seems to have produced his most urgent suffer- 
ings. Subsequent to the common cravings and debility of 
hunger, his first physical distress appears to have been the 
sensation of cold ; then cold and thirst ; lastly, faintness and 
spasm. In this case we find no symptoms of inflammation. 
A want of nervous energy, arising from the reduction in the 
quantity or quality of the blood, appears to have been the 
principal disease. The effort of swallowing, and the oppres- 
sion of food on the exhausted stomach, completed the catas- 
trophe.* 

There is an extraordinary instance of suicidal design re- 
corded, and which is worth noticing, were it only to shew the 
extent to which the human powers can sustain life unaided 
by proper nourishment, even though the intelligent principle 
be subverted. 

An officer, having experienced many mortifications, fell 
into a state of deep melancholy. He resolved to die of 
famine ; and he followed up his resolution so faithftilly that 
he passed forty-five days without eating anything, except on 
the fifth day, when he asked for some distilled water, in which 
was mixed a quarter of a pint of spirits of aniseed. This lasted 
him three days. Upon being told that this quantity of spirit 
was too much, he then took in each glass of water no more 
than three drops of it, and the same quantity of fluid lasted 
him thirty-nine days. He then ceased drinking, and took 

* Hiifeland*s Journal. 



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SINGULAR CAiSES OF SUICIDE. 311 

nothing at all during the last six days. On the thirty-sixth 
day, he was obliged to recline on a couch. Every request to 
induce him to break his resolution was useless, and he was 
regarded as already lost, when chance recalled within him a 
desire to live. Having seen a child with a slice of bread and 
butter, the sight excited in him so violent an appetite that 
he instantly asked for some soup. They gave him every two 
hours some spoonsful of rice bouillie, and by degrees more 
nourishing diet, and his health, though slowly, was estar 
Wished.* 

Two young men, mere youths, entered a restaurant, be- 
spoke a dinner of unusual luxury and expense, and after- 
wards arrived punctually at the appointed hour to eat it. 
They did so, apparently with all the zest of youthful appe- 
tite and glee. They called for champagne, and quaffed it 
hand-in-hand. No symptom of sadness, thought, or reflec- 
tion of any kind, was observed to mix with their mirth, 
which was loud, long, and unremitting. At last came the 
cafe noiry the cognac, and the bill ; one of them was seen to 
point out the amount to the other, and then burst out afresh 
into violent laughter. Having swallowed each a cup of 
coffee to the dregs, the ffargon was ordered to request the 
company of the restaurateur for a few minutes. He came 
immediately, expecting, perhaps, to receive the payment 
of his bill, minus some extra charge which the jocund but 
economical youths might deem exorbitant 

Instead of this, however, the elder of the two informed him 
that the dinner had been excellent, which was the more for- 
tunate, as it was decidedly the last that either of them should 
ever eat ; that for his bill, he must of necessity excuse the pay- 
ment of it, as, in fact, they neither of them possessed a single 
sous ; that upon no other occasion would they have thus vio- 
lated the customary etiquette between guest and landlord ; but 

* Hist, de TAjcad. Roy., 1769. 



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312 SINGULAR CA8E8 OF SUICIDE. 

that finding this world, with its toils and its troubles, unworthy 
of them, they had determined once more to enjoy a repast of 
which their poverty must for ever prevent the repetition, and 
then take leave of existence for ever I For the first part of 
this resolution, he declared that it had, thanks to the cook 
and his cellar, been achieved nobly ; and for the last, it would 
soon follow, for the cafi noir, besides the little glass of his 
admirable cognac, had been medicated with that which would 
speedily settle all their accounts for them. 

The restaurateur was enraged. He believed no part of the 
rhodomontade but that which declared their inability to dis- 
charge their bill, and he talked loudly in his turn of putting 
them into the hands of the police. At length, however, upon 
their ofiering to give up their address, he was induced to 
allow them to depart 

On the following day, either the hope of obtaining his 
money or some vague fear that they might have been in 
earnest in the wild tale that they had told him, induced this 
man to go to the address they had left with him; and he 
there heard that the two unhappy boys had been that morn- 
ing found lying together, hand-in-hand, on a bed hired a 
few weeks before by one of them. When they were dis- 
covered, they were already dead and cold. 

On a small table in the room lay many written papers, all 
expressing aspirations after greatness that should cost neither 
labour nor care, a profound contempt for those who were 
satisfied to live by the sweat of their brow, sundry quotations 
fi-om Victor Hugo, and a request that their names and the 
manner of their death might be transmitted to the news- 
papers. 

Many are the cases of young men, calling themselves 
friends, who have thus encouraged each other to make their 
final exit fi'om life, if not with applause, at least with effect 
And more numerous still are the tales recounted of young 
men and women found dead, and locked in each other's arms. 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 313 

fulfilling literally, and with most sad seriousness, the destiny 
sketched so merrily in an old song — 

" Grai, gai, marions-nous — 
Mettons-nous dans la mis^re ; 
Gai, gai, roarions-nous — 
Mettons-nous la corde au cou." * 

A woman drowned herself by breaking a hole in the ice of 
a pond sufficiently large to admit her head, which she put 
into the water, so that her body remained quite dry. 

A Greenwich-pensioner, who had his allowance stopped 
from some misconduct, committed suicide by stabbing himself 
with his spectacles, which he sharpened to a point for that 
purpose. 

A man, with a determination to sacrifice his life, threw 
himself among the bears in the Jar din du Raiy in Paris. A bear 
sprung immediately upon him, and before he could be rescued 
from Bruin's grasp, he was so mutilated that he died a few 
hours afterwards. Prior to his death he expressed much 
pleasure at having effected his purpose. 

A young lady, at the age of nineteen, was extremely 
beautiful, in possession of a large fortune, and by no means 
deficient in understanding or wit; but was immoderately 
fond of play. She soon gambled away her whole fortune. 
Reflections on the past became bitter; anticipation of the 
future alarming; melancholy increased, and weariness of life 
succeeded. Being at Bath, in the year 1731, she was seen to 
retire to her chamber with her usual composure, and was 
found in the morning hanging by a gold and silver girdle to 
a closet door. Her youth, beauty, and distress, rendered her 
an object of pity to every one but a near relation, who, on 
hearing of her death, was inhuman enough to exclaim, in a 
punning style — " Then she has tied herself up from play." 

♦ Paris and the Parisians, by Mrs. Trollope. 



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314 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDB. 

On the morning of her death she left these lines in the 

window : — 

^ O deatliy thou pleasing end of human woel 
Thou cure for life ! thou greatest good below ! 
Still mayst thou fly the coward and the slave, 
And thy soft slumbers only bless the brave.** 

On reading which a gentleman wrote thus : — 
" O dice, ye vain diverters of our woe ! 
Ye waste of life I ye greatest curse below I 
May ne*er good sense again become your slave. 
Nor your &lse charms allure and cheat the brave.*' 

A man whose name and connexions were unknown, was 
found dead in his chamber at an inn, in Kent, with the 
following pap^r lying beside him : — 

Lost to the world, and by the world forsaken, 

A wretched creature, 

Who groaned under a weary life 

Upwards of thirty years, without knowing 

One happy hour. 

And all 

In consequence of one single error, 

Committed in early days, 

Though highly venial 

As being the mere effects of juvenile folly, 

And soon repented of. 

But, alas I 

The poor prodigal 

Had no kind lather that would take him home, 

And welcome back his sad repentant virtue 

With fond forgiveness and the fatted calf. 

Here 

He sinks beneath his mighty load of ills, 

And with 

His miserable being lays them down, 

Heart-broken, 

At the age of fifty. 

Tender reader, give him a little earth 

For charity. 

A middle aged Frenchman, decently dressed, hanged himself 
in a public-house in Old Street Road. A letter written in 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 315 

French was found in his pocket, setting forth that some years 
ago, he dreamt he was to die that day, if not, he was to be 
damned ; and therefore, for the salvation of his soul, he had 
thought it necessary to put an end to his life. 

A young gentleman, living in London, had paid his ad« 
dresses to an agreeable young lady, won her heart, and 
obtained the consent of her father, to whom she was an only 
child. The old gentleman had a fancy to have them married 
at the same parish church where he himself had been, at a 
village in Westmoreland ; and they accordingly set out alone, 
the father being at the time indisposed with the gout, in 
London. 

The bridegroom took only his man, and the bride her 
maid ; and when they arrived at the place appointed, the bride- 
groom wrote the following letter to his wife's &ther : — 

" Sir, — After a very pleasant journey hither, we are pre- 
paring for the happy hour in which I am to be your son. I 
assure you the bride carries it, in the eyes of the vicar who 
married you, much beyond her mother; though he says, 
your open sleeves, pantaloons, and shoulder-knot, made a 
much better shew than the finical dress I am in. However, 
I am contented to be the second fine man this village ever 
saw, and shall make it very merry before night, because I 
shall write firom thence. Your most dutiful son, 

«T.D." 

" P. S. The bride gives her duty, and is as handsome as an 
angel. I am the happiest man breathing." 

The bridegroom's servant knew his master would leave the 
place very soon after the wedding was over, and seeing him 
draw his pistols the night before, took an opportunity of going 
into his chamber and charged them. 

Upon their return from the garden they went into that 
room, and, after a little fond raillery on the subject of their 
courtship, the bridegroom took up one of the pistols, which 
he knew he had unloaded the night before, presented it 



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316 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

to her^ and said, with the most graceful air, whilst she looked 
pleased at his agreeable flattery, ^' Now, madam, repent of all 
those cruelties you have been guilty of towards me ; consider, 
before you die, how often you have let a poor wretch freeze 
under your casement You shall die, you tyrant I you shall 
die with all those instruments of death about you, — ^with that 
enchanting smile, those killing ringlets of your hair !" 

'^ Give fire," said she, laughing. He did so, and shot her 
dead. Who can speak his condition? But he bore it so 
patiently as to call up his man. The poor wretch entered, and 
his master locked the door upon him. " Will," said he, " did 
you charge these pistols ?" He answered, ** Yes ;" upon which 
his master shot him dead with the undischaiged instrument of 
death. After this, amidst a thousand brQken sobs, piercing 
groans, and distracted motions, he wrote the following letter 
to the father of his dead mistress : — 

" Sm, — Two hours ago, I told you truly I was the hap- 
piest man alive. Your daughter lies dead at my feet, killed 
by my own hand through a mistake of my man's charging my 
pistols unknown to me ! I have murdered him for it Such 
is my wedding-day. I will follow my wife to her grave ; but 
before I throw myself upon my sword, I command my dis- 
traction so far as to explain my story to you. I fear my 
heart will not keep together till I have stabbed it Poor, 
good old man, remember that he who killed your daughter 
died for it ! In death I give you thanks, and pray for you 
though I dare not pray for myself. If it be possible, do not 
curse me. Farewell for ever I ^* T. D." 

This being finished, he put an end to his life. The body of 
the servant was interred in the village where he was killed ; 
and the young couple, attended by their maid, were brought 
to London, and privately interred in one grave, in the parish 
in which the unhappy father resided. 

The following case occurred in England not many years 
ago. A young couple, the wife aged sixteen and the husband 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 317 

nineteen, discovered, a few months after marriage, that money 
was much more easily spent than procured ; and being unable 
to live in the style they wished, they determined, after having 
held a long consultation on the subject, that their best and 
only remedy was at once to put an end to their imaginary 
miseries by committing suicide. Aft:er dinner, the husband 
attended his usual business, and brought hoine with him at tea- 
time a quarter of a pound of sugar of lead, for the purpose of 
executing their design. The whole of this poison was dis^ 
solved in a pot of coffee, and carefully strained and sweet- 
ened, to render it more palatable. The young man then deli- 
berately wrote a letter, explaining the circumstances to his 
father, to whom he had previously sent a message, requesting 
him to call in the evening. At the time appointed the 
husband and wife drank off the poison, and then, embracing 
each other, laid down to die. When they were discoyered, 
all that they could be induced to say was the word " poison." 
Medical assistance was immediately procured, but no per- 
suasions could induce them to take an antidote, both of them 
heroically resolving to die. The young woman, however, 
reconsidered the point, and began to think that death was not 
so agreeable a thing as she first supposed ; but, retaining her 
feelings of obedience strong in death, imploringly said to her 
husband, when she was pressed to take the medicine offered, 
" Shall I take it, dear ?" To this he gave a direct negative, 
enforcing it with an oath ; but her love of life triumphed over 
her sense of obedience to the commands of her lord, and she 
consented to swallow the antidote. The husband, however, 
was not so willing to venture upon the cares and vexations of 
the world, and obstinately persisted in dying ; but as this was 
not thought prudent, he was made by physical force to swal- 
low the medicine, and was restored to life, and is still in the 
land of the living. 

Instances of mutual suicide are by no means uncommon on 
the Continent, and were not unknown in ancient times. The 
inhabitants of England have not become as yet romantic 



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318 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

enough for these exhibitions. The case of M. Kleist, the 
celebrated Prussian poet, and Madame Vogle, may be fresh 
in the minds of our readers. Madame Vogle, it is said, had 
suffered long under an incurable disorder; her physicians had 
declared her death inevitable ; she herself came to a resolu- 
tion to put an end to her existence. M. Kleist, the poet, and 
a friend of her family, had also determined to kill himself. 
These two unhappy beings, having confidentially communi- 
cated to each other their horrible resolution, resolved to carry 
it into effect at the same time. They repaired to the inn at 
Wilhemstadt, between Berlin and Potsdam, on the borders 
of the Sacred Lake. For one night and one day they were 
preparing themselves for death, by putting up prayers, sing- 
ing, drinking wine and rum, and concluded by drinking 
sixteen cups of cofiee. They wrote a letter to M. Vogle, to 
announce to him the resolution they had taken, and to beg 
him to come as speedily as possible, for the purpose of seeing 
their remains devoutly interred. After having despatched 
the letter to BerKn, they repaired to the bank of the Sacred 
Lake, where they sat down opposite to each other. M. Kleist 
then took a loaded pistol and shot Madame Vogle through 
the heart, — she instantly fell back dead; he then reloaded 
the pistol, and applying the muzzle to his own head, blew out 
his brains. 

A horrid scene of mixed murder and suicide, accompanied 
with great calmness in its execution, was exhibited in the year 
1732, in the family of one Richard Smith, a bookbinder. This 
man being a prisoner for debt within the walls of the King's 
Bench, was found hanging in his chamber, together with his 
wife ; and their infant of two years old lay murdered in a 
cradle beside them. Smith lefl three letters behind him, one 
of which was addressed to his landlord, in which he says : — 
"He hopes eflFects enough wiU be found to discharge his 
lodgings, and recommends to his protection his ancient dog 
and cat" A second was addressed to his cousin Brindley, 
and contained severe censure on the person through whose 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 319 

means he had been brought into difficulties, with a desire also 
that Brindley would make the third letter public, which was 
as follows : — 

" These actions, considered in all their circumstances, being 
somewhat uncommon, it may not be improper to give some 
account of the cause ; and that it was an inveterate hatred we 
conceived against poverty and rags, evils that through a train 
of unlucky accidents were become inevitable. For we appeal 
to all that ever knew us, whether we were idle or extravagant, 
whether or no we have not taken as much pains to get our 
living as our neighbours, although not attended with the same 
success. We apprehend the taking our child's life away to 
be a circumstance for which we shall be generally condemned ; 
but for our own parts we are perfectly easy on that head. We 
are satisfied it is less cruelty to take the child with us, even 
supposing a state of annihilation as some dream of, than to 
leave her friendless in the world, exposed to ignorance and 
misery. Now in order to obviate some censures which may 
proceed either from ignorance or malice, we think it proper to 
inform the world, that we firmly believe the existence of 
an Almighty God ; that this belief of ours is not an implicit 
faith, but deduced fi-om the nature and reason of things. We 
believe the existence of an Almighty Being from the consider- 
ation of his wonderful works, firom those innumerable celestial 
and glorious bodies, and from their wonderful order and har- 
mony. We have also spent some time in viewing those won- 
ders which are to be seen in the minute part of the world, 
And that with great pleasure and satisfaction. From all which 
particulars we are satisfied that such amazing things could not 
possibly be without a first mover, — without the existence of 
an Almighty Being. And as we know the wonderful God to 
be Almighty, so we cannot help believing that he is also good — 
not implacable, not like such wretches as men are, not taking 
delight in the misery of his creatures ; for which reason we re- 
sign up our breath to him without any terrible apprehensions. 



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320 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE* 

submitting ourselves to those ways which in his goodness he 
shall please to appoint after death. We also believe in the 
existence of unbodied natures, and think we have reason for 
that belief, although we do not pretend to know their way of 
subsisting. We are not ignorant of those laws made in terras 
rem, but leave the disposal of our bodies to the wisdom of the 
coroner and his jury, the thing being indifferent to us where 
our bodies are laid. From hence it will appear how little 
anxious we are about a * hie jaceV We for our part neither 
expect nor desire such honours ; but shall content ourselves 
with a borrowed epitaph, which we shall insert in this paper: 

' Without a name, for ever silent, dumb ; 
Dust, ashes, nought else is within this tomb ; 
Where we were bom or bred it matters not ; 
Who were our parents, or have us begot. 
We * were, but are not.' Think no more of us, 
For as we are, so you*ll be turn'd to dust.* 

"It is the opinion of naturalists, that our bodies are at cer- 
tain stages of life composed of new matter ; so that a great 
many poor men have new bodies oftener than new clothes. 
Now, as divines are not able to inform us which of those seve- 
ral bodies shall rise at the resurrection, it is very probable that 
the deceased body may be for ever silent as well as any other. 
(Signed,) "Richard Sbhth, 

" Briqet Smith." 

A lady and gentleman visited an hotel in the neighbourhood 
of Paris, and ordered dinner to be prepared in a private room. 
The lady, who appeared only nineteen years of age, was most 
magnificently attired. The gentleman was observed to pay 
her marked attention, and addressed her with the most endear- 
ing epithets. The dinner consisted of every luxury of the 
season. After drinking a large quantity of wine, the gentle- 
man requested that they should not be disturbed, and he was 
heard to lock the door. Half an hour afterwards, a report 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 321 

of a pistol was heard in the room. The master of the hotel 
was alarmed. The assistance of the police was obtained, and 
the door of the room in which the lady and gentleman had 
dined forced open. The lady was found on the floor dead, 
and the gentleman a short distance from her, in the last 
struggle of death. Two pistols were found near the bodies. 
It appeared that they had agreed to commit mutual suicide, 
and each being provided with a loaded pistol, fired at and 
killed each other. On the table was found a piece of paper, 
on which were written with a pencil the following words : — 
*^ We, H * * * d and Maria * *, were enamoured of each 
other. Circumstances beyond the control of man prevent our 
alliance. We have no alternative but separation or death ; 
and believing death to be one eternal dream of bliss, we, after 
much meditation, have determined to kill each other. We 
affix our signatures to this document 

«H***D, 

"Maria**." 
Two devoted lovers, disappointed in obtaining the consent 
of their parents to their union, resolved upon dying. They ex- 
perienced some difficulty in deciding how to efiect their pur- 
pose. The lady expressed an abhorrence of pistols, and the 
gentleman was equally repugnant to the rope. After much 
hesitation, they agreed to throw themselves into the river, and 
stated their intention to a friend, who, thinking they were 
merely joking, observed — "Well, I think you will find the 
water very cold ; I should advise you to put on warm clothing 
before you jump in." In the evening they were missing, and 
on searching the river, they were discovered, tied to each 
other, quite dead. 

The suicide of Sir R. Croft has often been alluded to. He 
attended the late Princess Charlotte in her confinement, and 
her much lamented death> although not owing to any want of 
skill on his part, preyed much on his mind, and drove him to 
the rash act He fancied he saw the spirit of the princess 
glide through his room. The sight of an open razor on the 

Y 

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SINGULAR CASES OF SXHCIDE. 

table first suggested the idea of self-destruction to him. He 
was a physician of great skiU^ and was much beloved by all 
who knew him. 

A bishop of Grenoble affords an instance of suicidal inge- 
nuity. He took a rod on which his bed-curtains hung, 
and suspended it across by a stick, which communicated with 
the trigger of his fowling-piece. He then sat quietly down, 
with his feet hanging over the rod, and placing the muzzle of 
the gun in his mouth, held it &st He had nothing more 
now to do than to drop his leg upon the rod, when the gun 
went off, and three bullets entered his brain. 

The fortitude which suicides display is amazing. A servant 
girl of the Dean of , who had always borne a most ex- 
cellent character, was accused by the fsunily of theft She 
immediately repaired to the wash-house, immersed her head 
in a pail of water, and was found dead in that position. What 
must have been the courage of this poor creature, who, when 
writhing under the lash of a false accusation, kept her head 
under water, despite the horrible sense of suffocation that must 
have come on I 

A French soldier of the name of Bordeaux, being deter- 
mined to put an end to his life, persuaded a comrade, called 
Humain, to follow his example. They both repaired to an 
inn at St Denis, and bespoke a good dinner. One of them 
went out to buy some powder and balls. They spent the day 
(Christmas) together with great cheerfulness, called for more 
wine ; and, about four o'clock in the evening, blew out their 
brains, leaving some empty bottles, their will, a letter, and 
half-a-crown, in addition to the amount of their bilL 

The following letter was addressed by Bordeaux to the 
lieutenant of his troop, and was as follows: — 

" Sm, — During my residence at Guise, you honoured me 
with your firiendship. It is time to thank you. You have often 
told me that I appeared displeased with my situation. I was 
sincere, but not absolutely true. I have since examined myself 
more seriously, and acknowledge that I am disgusted with every 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 323 

state of man^ the whole worlds and mysel£ From these disco- 
veries a consequence should be drawn, — if disgusted with the 
whole, renounce the whole. The calculation is not long, — ^I 
have made it without the aid of geometry. In short, I am 
about putting an end to the existence that I have possessed for 
near twenty years, fifteen of which have been a burden to me ; 
and firom the moment that I have ended this letter, a few grains 
of powder will destroy this moving mass of flesh, which we vain 
mortals call the king of beings. I owe no one an excuse. I 
deserted. That was a crime ; but I am going to punish it, 
and the law will be satisfied. I asked leave of absence fix)m 
my superior officers, to have the pleasure of dying at my ease. 
They never condescended to give me an answer. This served 
to hasten my end. I wrote to Bord to send you some de- 
tached pieces I left at Guise, which I beg you will accept 
You will find that they contain some well chosen literature. 
These pieces will solicit for me a place in your remembrance. 
Adieu, my dear lieutenant 1 Continue your esteem for St. 
Lambert and Dorat As for the rest, skip fi:om flower to 
flower, and acquire the sweets of all knowledge, and enjoy 
every pleasure. 

* Pour moi, j*amve au iron, 

Qui n'echappe ni sage ni fbu, 

Pour aller je De sais oii.' 

^^ If we exist after this life, and it is forbidden to quit it 
without permission, I will endeavour to procure one moment 
to inform you of it ; if not, I shall advise all those who are un- 
happy, which is by fer the greater part of mankind, to follow 
my example. When you receive this letter, I shall have been 
dead at least twenty-four hours. With esteem, &c. 

** Bordeaux." 

Lord Scarborough exhibited the same nonchalance in the 
act of killing himself as he did when he resigned his situ- 
ation as master of the horse. He was reproached in the 
House of Peers with taking the king's part because he had a 

y2 



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324 8IKQULAR CA8E8 OF SUICIDE. 

good place at court '' My Lords," said he, '' to prove to 
you that my opinion is independent of my place, I resign it 
this moment" He afterwards found himself in a perplexing 
dilenmia between a mistress whom he loved, but to whom he 
had promised nothing, and a woman whom he esteemed, and 
to whom he had promised marriage. Not having sufficient 
resolution to decide which to choose, he killed himself to 
escape the embarrassment 

Perhaps the coolest attempt at self-destruction on record, 
the chefd^ceuvre of a suicide, is one related by Fodere. An 
Englishman advertised extensively that he would on a certain 
day put himself to death in Covent Garden, for the benefit 
of his wife and family. Tickets of admission a guinea each. 

Voltaire states that Creech, the translator of Lucretius, 
wrote on the margin of the manuscript, ^^ Remember to 
hang myself after my translation is finished," and he accord- 
ingly did so.* Zimmerman asserts that he committed suicide 
in order to escape firom the contempt of his countrymen, in 
consequence of the ill-success that attended the translation of 
Horace, which followed Lucretius. Mr. Jacob, however, ob- 
serves, in reply to the statement of Zimmerman, that Creech 
did not hang himself until seventeen years aft^r the appear- 
ance of his Horace. His death was attributed at the time to 
some love affair, or to his morose and splenetic temper. 

The history of the unfortunate Madame de Mannier is full 
of interest It has been asserted that her death was the 
result of an ardent passion for Mirabeau ; but we think it has 
clearly been established that, at the time of her suicide, she had 
abandoned all claim to his affection, and had formed a strong 
attachment to a person who, although highly respectable in 
point of rank, was very inferior to hersel£ It is well known 
that Mirabeau had a liaison with Madame de Monnier, the 
wife of the Marquis de Monnier, whom she abandoned. After 
residing seven years with her seducer, mutual jealousies and 

* Voltaire observes, that if Creech had been translating Ovid; he would 
not have committed suicide. 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 325 

suspicions arose^ and all intercourse between them ceased. 
After the death of her husband, the Marquis de Monnier, she 
became enamoured of M. Edme. Benoit de Poterat, a re- 
tired captain of cavahry, a widower, thirty-five years of age. 
The lovers were mutually captivated, and they agreed to 
marry. Before this happy event, however, could be arranged, 
the ill health of M. de Poterat forced him to quit the country, 
and Madame de Monnier resolved to terminate her own 
existence. She often conversed with her intimate fiiend 
Dr. Ysabeau on the effects of suffocation from charcoal wood. 
She asked whether death necessarily ensued ? The doctor 
replied, that when suffocation was gradual and incomplete, in- 
stances had been known of persons saved by the instinctive 
effort of introducing air into the room. On the death of 
M. de Poterat, which took place on the 8th of September, 
1789, Madame de Monnier was overcome with grief. Dr. 
Ysabeau and his wife did all they could to console her, but 
without effect Being alone one day, she collected her 
papers, tied them in bundles, sealed them, wrote a letter con- 
taining her last directions, and entered a closet, the smallness 
and closeness of which she considered well suited to the design 
she had long resolved to carry into execution. She then 
closed and carefiiUy calked the door and the window. Two 
chafing dishes fiill of charcoal, which she had just lighted, 
were then placed by her, one on each side of the arm chair 
upon which she seated herself In order to prevent her pur- 
pose fit)m being counteracted by any instinctive effort of 
nature, she bound her legs, first under and then above her 
clothes. She then tied one of her arms to the chair, and 
fixed the other, and in this position calmly awaited death. 
When it was discovered that she had attempted suicide, 
M. Bousseau, Procureur du Roi of the Bailliage, proceeded to the 
house, attended by a surgeon, who, without adopting the most 
simple means of resucitation, commenced opening the body, 
on the supposition that she was enceinte. In the meanwhile, 
a messenger was dispatched for Dr. Ysabeau, who rode full 



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326 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

gallop towards Madame de Monnier's house ; but he arrived 
too late ; the operation had been performed, and life was ex- 
tinct From the symptoms which were present before the 
ignorant and barbarous surgeon commenced the operation. 
Dr. Ysabeau expressed a firm belief that he could have 
restored her to animation.* 

M. , aged twenty-seven, a native of Burgundy, who 

was equally &voured by nature and by fortune, fell passion- 
ately in love with a young lady. For a long time he solicited 
in vain the consent of his parents to the match, but at length 
love triumphed. Scarcely a month had elapsed after his mar- 
riage, when he was seized with a lowness of spirits, a disgust 
of life, and a Mghtfiil desire to commit suicide. Everything 
which the tenderness of a young and loving wife, and the 
sohcitude of the whole family, by whom he was loved, could 
suggest, was done to disperse these gloomy ideas, and recon- 
cile him to life ; but the unfortunate fellow was too deeply 
sunk in his melancholy. He at length quitted Burgundy, 
and went to Paris with his brother to consult a physician. 
The day after he had arrived, he went to M. Esquirol, made 
known his sad state to him, assuring him that his weariness of 
life was not the result of any physical disease, of any disap- 
pointment, or of any moral pain ; affirming, on the contrary, 
that he was surrounded with nothing but subjects of content- 
ment His brother confirmed this declaration. He left 
M. Esquirol, and promised to return the next day and com- 
mit himself to his care in his establishment TTie next day 
arrived, the young man went out at six o'clock in the morn- 
ing, purchased a pair of pistols, and returned at seven. He 
then proposed to his brother to set out together for Rouen ; 
but he reminded him of the promise he had given to 
M. Esquirol, adding, to prevent his changing his mind, 

* We refer oar readers, for a minute and deeply iDteresting account of this 
unfortunate woman's career, to a work from which we have gleaned the above 
facts ; the particulars of her life will be perused with great iuterest. — Vide 
" Memoirs of Mirabeau, by himself," vol. iii. chap. ad. 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 327 

that he had months suitable to go. At that instant M. 

took out his two pistols^ and placing the mouth of one of them 
at his brother's forehead^ said, ^^ If you do not consent to go 
with me immediately, I will instantly blow out your brains 
with this pistol, and afterwards kill myself with the other." 
The brother, on hearing this, fell at his feet in a swoon, and 
when he recovered, he no longer saw his unfortunate relative 
who had threatened him, and he trembled lest he should have 
gone to some secret place to terminate his life. He at 
once gave notice to the police, and demanded that the most 
active of their body should be sent in search of him. On his 
part, he neglected nothing which could give him any clue to 
his discovery ; he inquired of his friends and his acquaint- 
ances, but heard nothing of him until the next day, when he 
received intelligence from the police that the body of a man 
shot through the head, had been found in the forest of Seuart 
It was that of his unfortunate brother. 

M. Escousse, author of a drama called Faruck le Maure, 
about twenty, and M. Lebras, about fifteen, both united by 
the closest ties of friendship, and each of a melancholy turn of 
mind, committed suicide at Paris. They had often complained 
of the miseries of this world, and talked of the necessity of 
quitting it. M. Escousse wrote the following note to hi* 
friends : — " I shall expect you at half-past eleven o'clock ; the 
curtain will be raised ; come, and we will at length arrive at 
the denouement,'*^ The young Lebras arrived at the appointed 
time, the charcoal was ignited, and the two friends expired 
together. 

A young woman of Marseilles, remarkable for her beauty, 
formed a connexion with a cabinetmaker, whose parents ob- 
jected to their union. They were found quite dead, clasped 
in each other's arms, having been suffocated by a quantity of 
burning charcoal They were both dressed in the most ele- 
gant manner, and must have spent many hours at their toilet 
preparing for their last adieu. 

The following case related by Gall cannot easily be paral- 



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328 8IKQULAB CASES OF SUICIDE. 

leled The first lieutenant of a company in which a man named 
Prochaska served became enamoured of the wife of the latter ; 
but she resisted all his entreaties. The officer, irritated by 
this obstinacy, was guilty of some injustice to the husband. 
Prochaska appeared dejected and morose, but the following 
day he appeared at the dinner table and seemed quite tranquil 
A few days afterwards he and his wife attended the confes- 
sional and took the sacrament. He dined in good spirits, and 
took a few glasses of wine. In the evening, he and his wife 
went out to walk, and he expressed himself in terms of great 
affection for her. He asked her, however, if she had made 
a candid and full confession to the priest; and on being 
answered in the affirmative, he coolly plunged a poniard in 
her breast ; seeing that she was not instantly dispatched, he cut 
her throat across, in order to release her from her sufferings. 
He now repaired to his house, and seizing his two children, 
who were in bed asleep, he actually hacked them in pieces 
with a hatchet. Having committed these three murders, he 
repaired to the main guard, and with the most perfect cool- 
ness and deliberation detailed the whole particulars of the 
bloody deed. He concluded in these words : — " Let the lieu- 
tenant now make love to my wife if he pleases F Shortly after 
this, he stabbed himself to the heart 

A young lady threatened, without ceasing, to kill herself, 
and iriade many attempts at it An old uncle with whom she 
lived, tired by her repeated menaces, proposed a walk in the 
country ; and taking her to the brink of a piece of water, he 
commenced undressing himseK " Now, niece," said he, 
" throw yourself into the water, and I will follow after you." 
He continued pressing her, and pushed her towards it ; but 
afler some struggling, she cried out that she was unwilling to 
die, and would never more talk of killing herself 

A young woman, married to a churlish husband, and who, 
although the mother of many children, was unhappy in do- 
mestic life, determined to fall by her own hands. She threw 
herself into a part of the river sufficiently deep for the exe- 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 329 

cution of her project, but a man, passing by, drew her out, and 
compelled her to go home. The necessary attentions were 
paid her, and she recovered; but it was observed that she 
stood in much dread of water, and felt a pain even in going 
into a bath. She, besides, had a fit of melancholy at the time 
in which she endeavoured to drov\." hersel£ This fit lasted 
two or three months ; it was follow* d by a month of great 
excitement, and then she remained calm during the remainder 
of the year. 

The bell of the church at Fressonville, in Picardy, was heard 
to sound at an unusual hour, and in a very extraordinary 
manner. The people hastened to make inquiry, and found a 
man suspended fix)m the clapper. He was immediately cut 
down, and after some time restored to life. No motives are 
assigned for the act 

A person of melancholy temperament, and who detested 
his parents on account of their -injustice towards him, had re- 
course to the chase as a diversion £rom his domestic sorrows. 
One day, being weary, he lay down in the shade by the side 
of his weapon and his dog, the fidthiul companion of his mis- 
fortunes, and fell into a profound sleep. He awoke in an agi- 
tated state of mind, and the idea occurred to him of making an 
eternal sleep foUow the temporary one he had so much en- 
joyed. Pleased with this, he got up, increased the charge of his 
fowling-piece, and was about to blow out his brains, when he 
sensibly reflected in this manner — "What I am I about to 
shorten my days because my unjust and unnatural parents 
deprive me of their property ? This is to give them their 
utmost desire, and to abandon to them that which they cannot 
take from me." 

Matthew Lovat was bom at Casale, a hamlet belonging to 
the parish of Soldo, in the territory of Belluno. His father's 
name was Mark, and being in poor circumstances, the son 
was employed in the coarsest labours of husbandry. His edu- 
cation and habits must have been in accordance with his 
station ; but it appears that, being attracted by the comfort- 



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SSO SmOULAB CASES OF SXHCIDE. 

able and easy circumstances of the rector and curate^ the only 
persons in the parish who lived without manual labour, he 
placed himself under the latter with the desire of entering the 
priesthood. From him he learned to read and write a little^ 
but he was too poor to gratify this inclination, and betook 
himself to the trade of a shoemaker. Whether this disap* 
pointment had any effect on Lovat we cannot tell, but he 
never became expert at his trade, and was distinguished for 
his gloominess and silence. When he grew older, he became 
subject to attacks of giddiness in the head in the spring, and 
to eruptions of a leprous character. Except this gloominess 
and his great attention to religious exercises, nothing remark- 
able was noticed about Lovat until July, 1802. At this period 
he performed an operation upon himseli^ which subjected him 
so much to the ridicule of his neighbours that he was com- 
pelled to remain within doors, and to refrain even from going 
to mass. He left the village in November, and went to 
Venice, where he had a younger brother, who recommended 
him to a widow, with whom he lodged until the 21st of Sep- 
tember in the following year, working regularly as a shoe- 
maker, and without exhibiting any signs of insanity. On that 
day he made his first attempt to crucify himsel£ Having 
constructed a cross out of the wood of his bed, he proceeded 
to nail himself to it in the middle of the street, called the 
Cross of Bin, and was only prevented by some persons who 
seized him as he was about to drive the nail through his left 
foot He was interrogated as to his motives, but would give 
no answer, except on one occasion, when he said that the day 
was the festival of St. Matthew, and that he could not explain 
further. A few days after this had happened, he left Venice, 
and went to his native village, but returned soon after, and 
continued working at his trade for nearly three years without 
exhibiting ftirther signs of his malady. Having taken a room 
in a third story in the street Deile Monache, his old delusion 
again seized him, and he commenced making at his leisure 
hours the machine on which he intended to accomplish his 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDB. 331 

purpose^ and providing the nails, ropes, bands, crown of thorns, 
&c. He perceived that it would be difficult to nail himself 
firmly to the cross, and therefore made a net, which he fiistened 
over it, securing it at the bottom of the upright beam a little 
below the bracket he had placed for his feet, and at the ends 
of the two arms. The whole apparatus was securely tied by 
two ropes, one from the net, and the other from the place 
where the beams intersected each other. These ropes were 
festened to the bar above the window, and were just sufficiently 
long to allow the cross to lie horizontally upon the floor of his 
apartment Having finished these preparations, he next put 
on his crown of thorns, some of which entered his forehead ; 
and then, having stripped himself naked, he girded his loins 
with a white handkerchief. He then introduced himself 
into the net, and seating himself on the cross, drove a nail 
through the palm of his right hand by striking its head against 
the floor until the point appeared on the other side. He now 
placed his feet on the bracket he had prepared for them, and 
with a mallet drove a nail completely through them both, en- 
tering a hole he had previously made to receive it, and fasten- 
ing them to the. wood. He next tied himself to the cross by 
a piece of c<hx1 round his waist, and wounded himself in the 
side with a knife which he used in his trade. The wound was 
inflicted two inches below the left hypochondre, towards the 
internal angle of the abdominal cavity, but did not injure any 
of the parts which the cavity contains. Several scratches 
were observed on his breast, which appeared to have been 
done by the knife in probing for a place which should present 
no obstruction. The knife, according to Lovat, represented 
the spear ofpassixm, 

AU this he accomplished in the interior of his apartment, 
but it was now necessary to shew himself in public. To ac- 
complish this, he had placed the foot of the cross upcxi the 
window sill, which was very low, and by pressing his fingers 
against the floor, he gradually drew himself forward, until the 



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332 SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 

foot of the cross overbalanciiig the head, the whole machme 
tilted out of the window, and hung by the two ropes which 
were fastened to the beam. He then, by way of finishing, 
nailed his right hand to the arm of the cross, but could not 
succeed in fixing his left, although the nail by which it was 
to have been fixed was driven through it, and half of it came 
out of the other side. 

This took place at eight o'clock in the morning. Some 
persons by whom he was perceived ran up stairs, disengaged 
him fi^m the cross, and put him to bed. A surgeon in the 
neighbourhood who was called in ordered his feet to be put in 
water, introduced some tow into the wound in the hypo- 
chondre, which he said did not reach the cavity, and pre- 
scribed some cordial 

Luckily, Dr. Bergierri, to whom we are indebted for the par- 
ticulars of this case, was passing hear, and came immediately 
to the house. When he arrived, his feet, firom which but a 
small quantity of blood had flowed, were still in water; his 
eyes were shut ; he gave no answer to the questions of those 
around him ; his pulse was convulsive ; his respiration difli- 
cult; he was, in fact, in a state which required the most 
prompt means of assistance. Having obtained permission of 
the director of police, who had come to the spot to ascertain 
what had happened, he had him removed by water to the 
Imperial Clinical School at the Hospital of St Luke and St 
John, of which he then had the superintendence. The only ob- 
servation Lovat made while being conveyed was to his brother 
Angelo, who was lamenting his extravagance; he replied, 
^^ Alas I I am very unfortunateJ* His wounds were examined 
afresh on his arrival at the hospital, and it was quite evident 
that the nails had entered at the palm of the hand, and passing 
between the bones of the metacarpus without doing them 
much injury, had gone out of the back. The nail which 
fastened the feet first entered the right foot between the 
second and third bones of the metatarsus, and then passed 



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SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE. 333 

between the first and second of the left foot, laying them open 
and grazing them. The wound in the hypochondre was found 
to extend to the point of the cavity. 

The patient slOl this time was quite docile, and did every- 
thing that was required of him* The wounds in the ex- 
tremities were treated with £resh oil of sweet almonds and 
bread and milk poultices, renewed several times a day. Some 
oimces of the mixture cardiaca opiata and a little very weak 
lemonade were taken at intervals during the first six days. 
On the fifth day the wounds of the extremities suppurated, 
and on the eighth, that in the hypochondre was perfectly 
healed. 

Dr. Bergierri frequently questioned him as to the motives he 
had in crucifying him^el^ and always received the same an- 
swer — " The pride of man must be mortified ; it must expire on 
the cross.^ Lovat seldom spoke ; he sat with his eyes closed, 
and a gloomy expression of countenance. The impression on 
his mind that he must crucify himself was very deep. He 
seemed fiilly persuaded that this was an obligation imposed 
on him by the will of the Deity, and wished to inform the tri- 
bunal of justice that this was his destiny, in order that they 
might not suspect that he had received his death firom any 
other hand than his own. He had expressed these ideas on a 
paper which he wrote before his attempt, and which after- 
wards fell into the hands of Dr. B. 

He did not complain much of pain during the first seven 
days, but on the morning of the eighth he sufiered severely ; 
this, however, was soon removed by the remedies had recourse to. 
In the course of a short time Lovat was completely restored 
to bodily health, but his mind retained until his death the 
same melancholy caste, although he never had another oppor- 
tunity of putting his sanguinary project into execution.* 

* Vide Frontispiece. 



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334 



CHAPTER XVX 



CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED BY LEGISLATIVE ENACT- 
MENTS?— INFLUENCE OF MORAL INSTRUCTION.— 
CONCLUSION. 

The legitimate object of punisbment — ^The argument of Beccaria — A legal 
solecism — A suicide not amenable to human tribunals — Evidence at 
coroners* courts, ex-parte — The old law of no advantage — No penal law 
will restrain a man from- the commission of suicide — ^Verdict ofjelo-de-^e 
punishes the innocent, and therefore unjust — Are suicides insane, and 
therefore not responsible agents? — The man who reasons himself into 
suicide not of sound mind — Rational mode of preventing suicide by pro- 
moting religious education. 

The only legitimate object for which punishment can be 
inflicted is the prevention of crime. " Am I to be hanged 
for stealing a sheep?'' said a criminal at the Old Bailey, 
addressing the bench. ^^ No," replied the judge; " you are 
not to be hanged for stealing a sheep, but that sheep may not 
be stolenJ^ Eveiy punishment, argues Beccaria, which does 
not arise from absolute necessity is unjust There should be 
a fixed proportion between crimes and punishments. Crimes 
are only to be estimated by the injury done to society ; and 
the end of punishment is, to prevent the criminal from doing 
further injury, as well as to induce others from committing 
similar offences. 

The act of suicide ought not to be considered as a crime 



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CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED, ETC. 335 

in the legal definition of the term. It is not an offence that 
can be deemed cognizable by the civil magistrate. It is to be 
considered a sinftd and vicious action. To punish suicide as a 
crime is to commit a solecism in legislation. The unfortunate 
individual, by the very act of suicide, places himself beyond 
the vengeance of the law ; he has anticipated its operation ; 
he has rendered himself amenable to the highest tribunal — 
viz., that of his Creator; no penal enactments, however 
stringent, can affect him. What is the operation of the law 
under these circumstances ? A verdict o£ felo-de-se is returned, 
and the innocent relations of the suicide are disgraced and 
branded with in&my, and that too on evidence of an ex-parte 
nature. It is unjust, inhuman, unnatural, and unchristian, 
that the law should punish the innocent family of the man 
who, in a moment of frenzy, terminates his own miserable 
existence. It was clearly established, that before the altera- 
tion in the law respecting suicide, the fear of being buried 
in a cross-road, and having a stake driven through the body, 
had no beneficial effect in decreasing the number of suicides ; 
and the verdict of felo-de-se^ now occasionally returned, is 
productive of no advantage whatever, and only injures the 
surviving relatives. 

When a man contemplates an outrage of the law, the fear 
of the punishment awarded for the offence may deter him 
from its commission ; but the unhappy person whose despe- 
rate circumstances impel him to sacrifice his own life can be 
influenced by no such fear. His whole mind is absorbed in 
the consideration of his own miseries, and he even cuts 
asunder those ties that ought to bind him closely and tenderly 
to the world he is about to leave. IS an affectionate wife and 
endearing family have no influence in deterring a man from 
suicide, is it reasonable to suppose that he will be influenced 
by penal laws ? 

If the view which has been taken in this work of the cause 
of suicide be a correct one, no stronger argument can be urged 



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336 CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED 

for the impropriety of bringing the strong arm of the law to 
bear upon those who court a voluntary death. In the majority 
of cases, it will be found that some hea^y calamity has &stened 
itself upon the mind, and the spirits have been extremely 
depressed The individual loses all pleasure in society ; hope 
vanishes, and despair renders life intolerable, and death an 
apparent relief The evidence which is generally submitted 
to a coroner's jury is of necessity imperfect ; and although the 
suicide may, to all appearance, be in possession of his right 
reason, and have exhibited at the moment of killing himself 
the greatest calmness, coolness, and self-possession, this would 
not justify the coroner or jury in concluding that derangement 
of mind was not present 

If the mind be overpowered by *' grief, sickness, infirmity, 
or other accident," as Sir Mathew Hale expresses it, the law 
presumes the existence of lunacy. Any passion that power- 
fully exercises the mind, and prevents the reasoning &culty £ix)m 
performing its duty, causes temporaiy derangement It is not 
necessary in order to establish the presence of insanity to prove 
the person to be labouring under a delusion of intellect — ^a 
fidse creation of the mind. A man may allow his imagination 
to dwell upon an idea until it acquires an unhealthy ascen- 
dency over the intellect, and in this way a person may com- 
mit suicide from an habitual belief in the justifiableness of the 
act* If a man, by a distorted process of reasoning, argues 
himself into a conviction of the propriety of adopting a par- 
ticular course of conduct, without any reference to the 
necessary result of that train of thought, it is certainly no 
evidence of his being in possession of a sound mind. A person 
may reason himself into a belief that murder, under certain 
circumstances not authorized by the law, is perfectly just and 
proper. The circumstance of his allowing his mind to reason 

* A singular case of this kind was brought under the notice of the West- 
minster Medical Society by Dr. Stone, as an argument in favour of the 
possibility of a person committing suicide when in possession of a sane 
mind. 



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BY LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENTS? 337 

on the subject is 9l prima facie case against his sanity; at least 
it demonstrates a great weakness of the moral constitution. 
A man's morale must be in an imperfect state of development 
who reasons himself into the conviction that self-murder is 
under any circumstances justifiable. 

We dwell at some length on this subject, because we feel 
assured that juries do not pay sufficient attention to the in- 
fluence of passion in overclouding the imderstanding. If the 
notion that in every case of suicide the intellectual or moral 
faculties are perverted, be generally received, it will at once 
do away with the verdict oi felo-de-se. Should the jury en- 
tertain a doubt as to the presence of derangement, (and such 
cases may present themselves,) it is their duty, in accordance 
with the well-known principle of British jurisprudence, to 
give the person the benefit of that doubt ; and thus a verdict 
of lunacy may be conscientiously returned in every case of 
this description. 

Having, we think, clearly established that no penal law 
can act beneficially in preventing self-destruction, — first, be- 
cause it would punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty; 
and, secondly, that, owing to insanity being present in every 
instance, the person determined on. suicide is indifierent as 
to the consequences of his action, — it becomes our province 
to consider what are the legitimate means of staying the pro- 
gress of an offence that undermines the foundation of society 
and social happiness. 

In the prevention of suicide, too much stress cannot be 
laid on the importance of adopting a well-regulated, enlarged, 
and philosophic system of education, by which all the moral 
as well as the intellectual faculties will be expanded and 
disciplined. The education of the intellect without any re- 
ference to the moral feelings is a species of instruction cal- 
culated to do an immense amount of injiuy. The tuition 
that addresses itself exclusively to the perceptive and reflec- 
tive faculties is not the kind of education that will elevate 
the moral character of a people. Religion must be made the 



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338 INFLUENCE OF MORAL INSTRUCTION. 

basis of all secular knowledge. We roust be led to believe 
that the education which fits the possessor for another world 
is vastly superior to that which has relation only to the con- 
cerns of this life. We are no opponents to the difiusion of 
knowledge; but we are to that description of information 
which has only reference *' to the life that is, and not to that 
which is to be." Such a system of instruction is of necessi^ 
defective^ because it is partial in its operation. Teach a man 
his duty to God, as well as his obligations to his fellow-men ; 
lead him to believe that his life is not his own ; that disap- 
pointment and misery is the penalty of Adam's transgression, 
and one fix>m which there is no hope of escaping ; and, above 
all, inculcate a resignation to the decrees of Divine Provi- 
dence. When life becomes a burden, when the mind is 
sinking under the weight of accumulated misfortunes, and no 
gleam of hope penetrates through the vista of futurity to 
gladden the heart, the intellect says, ** Commit suicide, and 
escape from a world of wretchedness and woe;" the moral 
principle says, " Live ; it is your duty to bear with resigna- 
tion the afflictions that overwhelm you ; let the moral influ- 
ence of your example be reflected in the characters of those 
by whom you are surrounded." 

If we are justified in maintaining that the majority of the cases 
of suicide result from a vitiated condition of the moral principle, 
then it is certainly a legitimate mode of preventing the commis- 
sion of the oflence to elevate the character of man as a moral 
being. It is no legitimate argumentagainst this position to main- 
tain that insanity in all its phases marches side by side with 
civilization and refinement ; but it must not be foi^otten that 
a people may be refined and civilized, using these terms in 
their ordinary signification, who have not a just conception 
of their duties as members of a Christian community. Let 
the education of the Tieart go side by side with the education 
of the hetzd; inculcate the ennobling thought, that we live 
not for ourselves, but for others ; that it is an evidence of true 



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■<^ 



INFLUENCE OF MORAL INSTRUCTION. 339 

Christian courage to face bravely the ills of life, to bear with 
impunity " the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor's 
wrong, and the proud man's contumely;" and we disse- 
minate principles which will give expansion to those fiiculties 
that alone can fortify the mind against the commission of a 
crime alike repugnant to all human and Divine laws. 




THE END. 



T. C. SaviU, Printer, 107, St. Martin*s Lane, Channg Cross. 



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